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IND 09-6149 

1 Hunolt, Franz, 1691-1746. The penitent Christian : or. Sermons on the virtue and 

of Penance, and on everythingrequi New York Cincinnati : Benziger brothers, [cl889]. 
Vol(s) 1-2 

2 Muhlenberg, William Augustus, 1796-1877. Evangelical Catholic papers : comprising 
addresses, lectures, and sermons from writings of Rev. W. A Suffolk County, N.Y. : St. 
Johnland Press and Stereotype Foundry, 1877. 

3 Muhlenberg, William Augustus, 1796-1877. Evangelical CathoUc papers : a collection of 
essays, letters, and tractates from the writings of Re Suffolk County, N.Y. : St. Johnland 
Press and Stereotype Foundry, 1875. 



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Hunolt, Franz 



The penitent Christian : or, Sermons 

on the virtue and sacrament of 

Penance, and on everything requi 


New York Cincinnati : [c 18^89]. 


IND 09-6149-01 


Master Negative # I ND 09-6149-01 















Number: 000342913 

01045nam 2200253 a 4500 
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|a(OCoLC)l 1423569 
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,aHunolt, Franz, |d 1691-1746. . j 

|a The penitent Christian : |b or, Sermons on the virtue and sacrament of Penance, and on everythmg required 

for Christian repentance and amendment of life, and also on doing penance during the time of a jubilee, and 

during public calamities ... |c Translated from the original Ge 

|a New York|a Cincinnati : |b Benziger brothers, |c [c 1 889] . 

ja 2 V. ; |c 23 cm. 

a Hunolt's sermons ; |v 5-6 r 

ja Includes indexes. 

a Catholic Church |x Sermons. 

a Sermons, English |x Translations from German. 

|a Sermons, German |x Translations into Enghsh. 

a Penance. • I 

|a Confession. 
|a Allen, J., |e tr. 

|a BATCH |b 00 |c 1 998 1 225 |1 NDUO 1 |h 0242 
Ic 2001 1208 |1 NDUOl |h 0150 

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A4 Page 6543210 

I I I I 

A4 Page 6543210 







Vol. V. 

..4»^&4»i^^«<3f;^£^-»>^ j^4.i^H.^.^ 


The Penitent Christian; 


Sermons en tl)c t)it:t;i.e anir Sacrament cf |)ena:tcii, auu un ttjcrj)- 

tl)lng requlrcb ;fof (fljnsfiun Fepnttance an>i Jl^nen^ment 

of Clfe, anb also on ©oing |)cnancc iurmg tl)c time 

of a Sttbilee, anir bnrlng |)nblu (Ealamltics. 



Adapted for all the Sundays and most of the Holy Days of the 'Year. 

With a Full Index of all the Sermons, an Alphabetical Index 

of the Principal Subjects treated, and 



Rev. father FRANCIS HUNOLT, 


"priest of the Society of Jesus, and Preacher in the Cathedral of Trer'es. 


Translated from the Original Gernnan Edition of Cologne, 1740, 


Rev. J. ALLEN, D.D., 

Chaplain of the Dominican Convent of the Sacred Heart, King Wiiliamstown, and of 
the Dominican Conv'enty East London, South Africa. 

3 3 7 4*^' 




New York, Cincinnati, Chicago : 


printers to the holy apostolic see. 


'■^ "''."ffl^y,:;^--'^^'^?*^ 'A- 



6 I : 
t ( • • t 


f I r t « ' 

• r < t ■ 

■ - : c r r I 




Bis/iop of Re/mo and Vicar- Apostolic of the 
Eastern Vicariate of the Cape Colony. 



Copyright, 1 889, by Bbnziger Brothers. 



• I. On Hearing the Word of God for Sinners who are think- 
ing of doing Penance, " 




II. On the Vain Labor of those who are in the State of Sin, 

III. On the Injurious Treatment of which the Sinner who 

defers Repentance is guilty towards God, - 

IV. On the Little Hope of Salvation there is for the Sinner 

who Defers Repentance, - - - - - 

V On the Difficulty that the Sinner will have in Correcting 
his Bad Habits if he Defers Repentance, 

VI. On the Torment caused by- a Bad Conscience, 

VII. On the False Peace of a Sinful Conscience, - 

VIII. On the Ignorance which the Sinner voluntarily seeks in 

order to find Peace of Conscience, 
IX. On Culpable Ignorance as a Cause of many Sins, - 
X. On the Blindness and Obduracy of the Sinner as a Pun- 
ishment of Sin, - " " " 








XI. On the Goodness with which God Protects the Sinner on 
account of Penance, - 

XII. On the Mercy of God in Bearing Patiently with and 
Receiving Sinners, 

XIII. On the Trials with which God Visits the Sinner, - 

XIV. Mary is the Refuge of Sinners who wish to do Penance, 





XV. On the Necessity of the Sacrament of Penance, 
XVI. On Confession as an Easy Means of Salvation, 

XVII. On the Efficacy of the Sacrament of Penance, 


XVIII. On the Prayer of the Sinner who is about to go to Con- 

fession, --- 240 

XIX. On the Nature of the Examen of Conscience, - - 252 

XX. On Candor in the Examen of Conscience, - - - 256 





Contents of Vol, V. 



XXI. On the Necessity and Nature of Sorrow for Sin, - 
XXII. On the Properties of True Sorrow for Sin, 


xxm. On Repentance for Sin on account of the Strict Justice 
of God, ----.-.. 

XXIV. On Repentance for Sin, because it Offends our Heavenly 

Father, ^ 



XXV. On the Nature of the Purpose, 

XXVI. On the Necessity of Removing the Proximate Occasion 

of Sin, •_ . 

XXVII. On the Vain Excuse of the Sinner who says he is not in 
the Proximate Occasion, 

XXVIII. On the Excuse of the Sinner who says that he cannot 
Avoid the Occasion, - - * . 


XXIX. On the Choice of a Good Confessor, .... 

XXX. On the Matter of Confession, 

XXXI. On the Manner in which One should Make his Confes- 


XXXII. On Concealing Sins in Confession throuirh Shame 


XXXIII. On the Advantage of a General Confession, as far as One's 

Past Life is Concerned, 

XXXIV. On the Advantage of a General Confession, as far as the 

Next Life is Concerned, - - - . _ 









XXXV. On the Penitential Works that the Sinner owes to God 

and to Himself, - ^g- 

XXXVI. On Doing Penance in Prosperity and in Adversity, - 479 

XXXVII. On the Penitential Works of the Innocent and the Just, 4r'3 
XXXVIII. On the Reasonableness of Works of Penance for us who 

adore a Suffering and Mortified God, - . 50G 



Subject, ^ 

The frequent hearing of the word of God in sermons is espe- 
cially necessary for those sinners who are actually in the state of 
sin, and- who are thinking of repenting. For if they do not 
hear the word of God, they must, humanly speaking, contmue 
in their unhappy state, and be lost ioTQW^r.-Preached on the 
sixth Sunday after Pentecost, 


Si dimisero eos jejunos in domum suarn, deficient in via.— 

Mark viii. 3. 

" And if I shall send them away iasting to their homes, they 

will faint in the way." 

Mark, my dear brethren, the wonderful zeal of those pious 
people; so anxious were they to follow Jesus Christ, and to hear 
His divine words, that they forgot to provide themselves with 
food and drink, and had to suffer the pangs of hunger. But at 
last our merciful Saviour said, *' I have compassion on the mul- 
titude; ^or behold, they have now been with me three days, and 
have nothing to eat;" if I do not provide them with food, they 
will perish with hunger: "If I shall send them away fasting 
to their home, they will faint in the way." Ah, my dear breth- 
ren, would that all Christians nowadays were as anxious and 
eager to hear the word of God, as some pious souls are, who 
are wont to say that they would rather go without their meals 
than miss their usual sermon! Would to God, I say, that all 
were so disposed! Nor would they therefore have to suffer 



0?i Hearhig the Word of God, 

hunger; they would rather receive a spiritual strength to keep 
them from perishing. But, alas! I may well say with Christ, 
** I have compassion on the multitude; ^' I pity the numbers of 
Christians in a city or community, who for three weeks, three 
months, three years, and even longer, receive no food for their 
souls, because, through their own culpable negligence, they sel- 
dom or never hear the word of God in sermons. I have a heart- 
felt pity for them; for what will become of their souls? **They 
will faint in the way; " there is nothing else for them; they will 
perish on the way to eternity, and be lost forever. I have else- 
where shown that the frequent, and, if possible, constant hearing 
the word of God in sermons is necessary and most useful to all 
sorts and conditions of men, that they may work out their sal- 
vation properly. To-day J shall prove that the same is true in a 
special sense for those actually in the state of sin, and I say: 



Plan of Discourse. 

Tlie frequent hearing of the word of God in sermons is special- 
ly necessary for those sinners who are actually in the state of sin, 
' and who are thinkinfj of repenting some time or other; for, if 
they do not hear the icord of God, they must, humanly speaking, 
contimie in their unhappy state, and be lost forever. Such is the 
• ichole subject. 

A constant hunger to receive food for our souls in sermons, 
and the speedy repentance and conversion of sinners, are the end 
and object of this discourse. Help us thereto, Almighty 
God, by Thy powerful grace, which we ask of Thee through 
the intercession of Mary and of our holy guardian angel. 

Jithout losing time in further preamble, I say to every sin- 
who is actually in the state of sin, if any such are here 
soul he must present, and I sincerely hope that there are none: Either you 
repent and ^j^^^ sooncr or later to save your*soul and go to heaven, or else 
vou have given up all right to heaven, and are determined to be 
lost forever. One of these alternatives you must choose; there 
is no third way for you. Have you chosen the latter? Have 
you niade up your mind to burn in the fire of hell amongst the 
demons? Alas! if such is the case, you are already in a despair- 
ing state, and I do not wonder that you have no desire to hear 
the word of God, to come to a sermon. But I can hardly believe 
that any Catholic who is in his right senses can form such a 
desperate resolution as that. Do you then expect some day or 

If the sin- 
ner wishes 
to save his 

ed to God. 

mmmmKmB msmmswii^ 

On Hearing the Word of God, 9 

other to save your soul, and to be happy forever with God in 
heaven? If so, I Vish from my heart that your expectation 
may be fully realized! But if you are really in earnest about it, 
you must be converted to God by repentance, for that is the 
one, indispensably necessary means which you must adopt in 
order to save your soul. And your sorrow and repentance must 
be sincere, they must come from the very depths of your heart, 
they must be supernatural, and they must embrace all the sins 
you have committed. It will not do for you to be like the traitor 
Judas, who, driven to despair by the intolerable torment that his 
conscience caused him for having betrayed Jesus Christ, g;ave 
back to the high priests the money he had received from them; 
nor like the wicked king Antiochus, who, influenced by natural 
fear and dread of the death that was impending over him during 
his last illness, asked pardon of God, and promised to repent; 
your repentance must be founded on faith, you must hate and 
detest all your sins without a single exception, because they have 
offended God, and you must earnestly purpose never more to 
commit any sin whatever. 

But this repentance and conversion you can never undertake This he can- 
with your natural strength alone ; you require thereto the pre- ^uJf ^^^ 
ventino" and helping grace of God, and that, too, a special, preventing 
extraordinary, powerful, and mighty grace, which God is not^^^~" 
bound to give to any sinner, since He has the most indisputable 
right to condemn at once to hell him who has committed a 
mortal sin ; and that grace must be one that enlightens your 
understanding so that you may see all the malice, gravity, and 
deformity of your sins, while, at the same time, it moves and 
impels your will to be sorry for and detest all your sins above all 
imaginable evils in the world. Now, when and where do you 
expect this extraordinary grace, which comes solely from the 
great mercy of God, this sudden change and conversion of your 
whole heart ? Perhaps in your bed, where you waste the morn- 
ing in unnecessary sleep ? Or at home, where your mind is 
filled to distraction with worldly cares and business ? Or at the 
parties and entertainments at which you spend your time in 
amusement? Or at table, while you are. enjoying yourself eating 
and drinking and indulging your sensuality ? Or even in the 
house of God, where the precept of the Church compels you to 
present yourself on Sundays and holydays, if you have still so 
much fear of the Lord left, and where you hear holy Mass with 
a cold and distracted heart ? No; these are neither the places 




On Hearing the Word of God. 

On Hea7'ing the Word of God. 



: : 

nor the occupations in which the holy Spirit of God will find 
■ -your heart ready for the influence of this great grace. 
Agracethat Tt is tnie that the Almighty God, in whose hand are the 
God Ls not j^g^^.j.g ^f ^ jj^g^j^ ^^^ gi^e you that grace in any place at any 

^ve, unless time, under any circumstances, and can at once excite you to 
when the ^^,^^ repentance and conversion; but, as theologians teach, He 
Sfofit does not generally act in that way ; He bestows His grace at a 
fitting time and in such places and circumstances in which the 
heart^ of man is disposed to .receive it. I acknowledge that 
sinners have sometimes been converted suddenly, and, as it were, 
in a moment, when they were least thinking of such a thing, as 
was the case with Paul when he was struck blind by a light from 
heaven, while on his way to imprison and persecute the Chris- 
tians. Sinners have been converted by being terror-stricken at 
seeing some dismal phantoms during the night, or because they 
were frightened bv a terrible thunderstorm, or at the sudden 
death of some friend ; or else they have been moved to repent 
and amend their lives by some great losses or misfortunes, or by 
having been put to shame before the world, or by having had 
some grievous illness to suffer. But a conversion of this kind is 
a rare, unusual, and, so to speak, miraculous event, which you 
cannot reasonably hope for, and certainly would not wish for. 
Still another means of repentance and conversion for the sinner 
is for him to devote his serious attention in the spirit of recollec 
tion to the meditation of heavenly things, according to the 
words of God to the Prophet Osee : " Therefore, behold, I will 
allure her, and will lead her into the wilderness ; and I will 
speak to her heart." ' That is to say, 1 will speak to the soul, 
and represent vividly to her her unhappy state, so as to excite 
her to repentance and contrition. But a means of this kind is 
not apt to be adopted by a man of the world, who, being occu- 
pied the whole day with worldly cares, hardly knows what to 
meditate on, and still less by one who, being actually in the state 
of sin, has closed his heart to the voice and invitation of God. 
Besides, what inclination or desire could you have to practise 
meditation in that way ? For that desire or inclination is 
. already the first preventing grace that God gives you for your 
conversion, and according to the usual course of divine Provi- 
dence, it is bestowed in a fitting time and place on a heart that 
is more or less disposed to receive it. 

• . Propter hoc, ecce, ego lactabo earn, et ducam earn In solitudlnem, et loquar ad oor ejus. 
j-Osee 11. 14. 

Hence there is no other means for you but to hear frequently Th^oMt-^^ 
the word of God- in sermons; for the Holy Ghost speaks to the istoheartue 
hearts of men by the living voice of His servants, whom He has woMof 
commissioned to announce His word in His name. And this is 
the ordinary and at the same time the most powerful means of 
moving the sinner to true repentance and conversion; this is 
the two-edged sword, as St. Paul calls it, which penetrates the 
heart and pierces it with sorrow for sin: '' For the word of God 
is living and effectual, and more piercing than any two-edged 
sword; and reaching unto the division of the soul and the 
spirit.'" ' This is the burning fire, as God Himself calls it by the 
Prophet Jeremias, which consumes all earthly and wicked desires 
and inclinations: "Are not My words as a fire? saith the Lord; 
and as a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?" ' that is to 
say have they not the power to move to contrition the heart of a 
sinner, even when it is hardened in guilt? This is that wonder- 
ful light which, as I have already said, displays before the eyes 
of the sinner the truths of eternity, and wakens him suddenly, 
by remorse of conscience, out of the deep sleep of sin, so that at 
last he surrenders to the irresistible influence of the known truth. 

And such has been the experience of many who, through idle ^^\"^°^. 
curiosity, and while their hearts were still hardened in evil hap- rienced; 
pened to hear a single sermon, and went away from it filled with ^^^^^^^ 
true contrition by an unexpected ray of light from heaven. 
Palladius writes of a certain man named Moses, who, having 
been deprived of the office he held at court on account of some 
great crimes he committed, instead of acknowledging his guilt 
and trying to amend his life, plunged still deeper into the.most 
enormous crimes, until he became at last the chief of a band of 
robbers. He happened once to enter a church, not out of piety, 
but probably with the intention of committing a robbery. 
Fortunately for him, the sermon had just begun, and the 
preacher was describing the strict account we shall have to 
render at the judgment seat, the terrible sentence that shall be 
passed on the wicked, and the joyful invitation that the children 
of God shall receive to eternal happiness. After hearing this 
sermon Moses became quite another man; filled with sorrow and 
weeping bitterlv, he left the church and went to an adjacent 
monastery, where, having got rid of the heavy burden of his 

1 Vivus est enlm sermo Dei, et efflcax et pen«trabii.Ior omni gladio ancipitl iX. pertlngens 
usque ad divlslonem auimae ac spiritus— Hebr. iv. 12. 
» Numquid non verba mea sunt quasi ignis, dicit Doniinus, et quasi malleus couterens 

petram ?— Jerem. xxiii. 29. 


'I W fyfir i :'^ 


6^/2 Hearing the Word of God, 

On Hearins: the Wo7'd of God. 


sins, and having received permission to enter the order, he spent 
the remainder of his life in the greatest mortification and 
sanctity. In the Life of Father Jerome Lopez of our Society ' 
I find a simihir account of one who, liaving been insulted, swore 
that he would not rest until he had killed his enemy. Deter- 
mined to glut his vengeance, he armed himself with six loaded 
pistols, and went into a forest, through which, he knew, his 
enemy was to pass. Through the mercy of God it happened that 
he met some peasants and shepherds who were running at full 
speed. " Where are you going in such a hurry? " he asked. "To 
the church in the village yonder," was the answer; "some 
preachers have just arrived there, and we wish to be in time for 
the sermon." The man at once felt curious to see what the 
strange preachers were like; he went with the peasants, and 
arrived in time to hear a sermon on the last judgment. But, 
Ions before it was over, he had to surrender to the grace of God; 
full of sorrow and repentance, ho could hardly wait till the ser- 
mon was finished, when he fell on his knees before the preacher, 
-aud-Mgged to be allowed to make his confession. For twenty- 
six years his conscience had been burdened by a grievous sin 
that he had wilfully concealed in confession, and during all that 
time he had been making had confessions and Communions, but 
now, to the priest's great consolation, he laid bare all the wicked- 
ness of his life with every sign of sincere sorrow, he accused 
liimself of the revenge he had been meditating, he forgave his 
enemy from his heart, and left his weapons in the hands of the 
priest. Such power and might has the word of God over the 
human heart, 
conflrmed There is another most remarkable example that I cannot help 
exampie.*"^ relating. Heroldus in his " Promptuarium " tells us of a certain 
father, a man of great wealth and position, who (as is unfortu- 
nately but too often the case nowadays) was rather careless of 
the religious training of his children. He had two sons and a 
daughter ; the youngest son was so wicked as to commit a horrid 
crime with his sister, whereat the other son became enraged, and 
having bitterly reproached his guilty brother, threatened to make 
known the whole thing to his father. The wicked young man, 
impatient of reproof and maddened at the thought of his guilt 
being known, plunged his sword into his brother's side and took 
to flfght immediately, The unhappy father, acknowledging too 
late the fault he had been guilty of in training his children, 

» VJta, 1. li., c. 6, 

disinherited his wicked son. The latter, hearing of this, stole 
into the house one night and killed his father, while he was 
asleep, witli the same sword with which he had taken away his 
brotheVs life. Burdened with those fearful crimes, he despaired 
of finding mercy from God, and wandered away under an as- 
sumed .name into foreign countries, where he abandoned himself 
to all kinds of vice, so that he never thought of receiving the 
sacraments, or even of hearing Mass, since he looked on himself 
as already lost. While in this miserable condition he heard of a 
certain preacher, who spoke so eloquently that people flocked in 
crowds to hear him. Urged-by curiosity, the despairing sinner 
determined that he, too, would go to hear the great preacher. (0 
good God, how wonderful is Thy mercy !) And he went to the 
sermon, which happened to be on the great patience that God 
displays in bearing with the sinner, and in receiving him again 
into his favor when he repents. Every word he heard pierced 
his heart like a sharp arrow, so that, when the sermon was over, 
he fell on his knees before the priest, and with many tears con- 
fessed all his sins. Before giving him absolution the priest told 
him to go and bewail his sins at the foot of the crucifix ; the 
rcpeivant man obeyed, but he w^as so overwhelmed with sorrow 
and contrition that he fell dead on the ground. Oh, happy soul 
and rrrost desirable death ! you may well say, my dear brethren. 
But wait till you hear the end of it. On the following day, as 
the preacher was recommendnig the soul of the deceased man to 
tlie prayers of the congregation, a snow-white dove was seen to 
fly about the church and to drop from its beak a note, which fell 
at the preacher's feet ; the latter picked up the note and read it 
out for the congregation. It stated that, in spite of the enor- 
mity of his sins, the extraordinary contrition of the deceased 
man and the copious tears he had shed had completely freed his 
soul from all guilt and all punishment, so that he went to heav- 
en immediately after his death. What do you think of that, my 
dear brethren ? You wonder, do you not, at the power of per- 
fect contrition and sorrow ? And true it is that it can in a mo- 
ment chanjre the worst sinner into a friend of God, even without 
absolution, when there is no opportunity of receiving it ; but 
how was that guilty man excited to such perfect sorrow and con- 
trition ? It w^as that sermon in which he heard the word of 
God, a word that can penetrate and pierce a heart as hard as a 
rock : " For the word of God is living and effectual, and more 
piercing than any two-edged sword." 




On Hearing the Word of God. 

On Hearing the Word of God, 


Therefore j^^;^^ if effects of this kind are produced on sinners who go to 
w« tokeep hear a sermon merely by chance, or through curiosity, and with 

away from 


evil actually in their hearts, and are produced, too, by a single 
sermon, what may we not expect the word of God to do for those 
sinners who frequently and regularly hear sermons with a sincere 
desire to learn sometiiing good, and to be moved to repentance ? 
Must they not be softened at last and brought to acknowledge 
their guilt and to return to God ? Oh, well does the envious de- 
mon know that it is, humanly speaking, impossible for him to 
subject for any length of time to his yoke those who still have a 
desire to hear the word of God ! And therefore he spares no 
effort to keep men away from sermons, lest they should become 
pious and escape out of his clutches. Thus, when the time comes 
for the sermon, lie fills their minds with all kinds of business, 
which, he persuades them, is of the greatest importance and must 
be attended to at once; l>e gets them into talk with others, so that 
they may be kept at home ; he excites wicked people to make 
fun of the preacher, so that they may not care to hear hmi; he 
pt^rsuades them that the hour appointed for the sermon is too 
early and inconvenient; that the weather is too warm or too cold, 
too damp, too windy, too harsh, and that they would injure 
their health if thev ventured out of doors ; he even suggests cer- 
tain peculiar devotions, of which I have spoken on another 
occasion, and persuades them that it is better for them to 
practise those devotions than to hear a sermon. But if he can- 
not keep them awav altogether, he at least tries to prevent them 
from cominff in time, so that they cannot derive proper fruit 

from the sermon. 

Woe to you, Christian, if you allow the lying spirit to de- 
ceive you "in any way, so as to prevent you from hearing the 
word of God! "Never trust thy enemy,'' is the warning that 
the Holy Ghost gives us all bv the wise Ecclesiasticus; and still 
I^r/evnm less should you trust the enemy of your soul, -for as a brass 
thisparttc pot his wickedness rusteth." * But jou especially, sinner, 
"^- who are still in the state of sin, do not, for God's sake, allow the 

tempter to befool vou, if you have any hope of saving your soul 
and going to heaven I I tell you distinctly that if you do not 
hear the word of God, there is no other means of conversion and 
repentance left for you. And further, you may be perfectly con- 
vinced that, if you are not moved to repent and amend your life 

» Non credos Inimlco tuo In setemum ; sicut enlm fflramentum aeruRlnat nequitla illlus. 
— Ecclus. xiL 10. 

they must 
not allow 
to be de- 
ceived by 

by hearing the word of God, you will never be moved to repent- 
ance by any other means, even if God were to work a miracle m 
vour f*vor, which He will not do. - Yes," says St. John Chrys- 
ostom,y " even if one were to rise from the dead, or an angel to 
descend from heaven," ' to exhort you to repentance and con- 
trition for your sins; not even then would you be induced to 
do sincere penance, or to be really converted, if the word of God, 
which is far more impressive and powerful than other means, 

cannot influence JQU. ' -, , TH-nir^rmm 

This is what Our Lord wishes us to understand by the parable ^^^'"^"^ 
in the Gospel of St. Luke. When the ricli glutton, in the midst scripture, 
of the fearful torments he was suffering in hell, raised his eyes 
and beheld Lazarus, whom during life he had looked upon as if 
of less'account than a dog, reposing in glory in Abraham's bosom, 
"Ah! " said he, '' Father, I beseech thee that thou wouldst send 
him to my father's house, for I have five brethren, that he may » 
testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of tor- 
ments." ' And .what answer did Abraham make? ** They have 
Moses and the Prophets," he said, " le^ them hear them; " ' they 
will preach to them. But, " no," said the other; *' No, Father 
Abraham; but if one went to them from the dead, they will do v 

penance;"' it would have such an effect on them, that they 
would amend their lives. No, said Abraham, you are grievously 
mistaken; if tlip word of God, which the prophets preach to 
them, cannot convert them, much less could a dead man help 
them; and if your brothers do not care to listen to the prophets, 
they will have still less inclination to hear one from the dead. 
''If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be- 
lieve if one rise again from the dead." * 

As a proof of this, my dear brethren, listen to a well-known and ^^^^_ 
most remarkable instance that occurred in England. There was ^^^^^^ 
a certain yoiing man, who, to the great scandal of the neighbor- ; 
hood, lived on terms of improper intimacy with a person of the 
opposite sex. His friends, both lay and clerical, frequently ex- 
horted him to put away this person and to amend his life, lest he 
should lose his soul; but all their exhortations were of no avail : 
he remained obstinate in his wickedness. God, in His mercy, see- 

* Etsi resur;?at mortuus, etsi cxBlitus descenderlt anfrelus. 

* Ro;?o erjfo te. pater, ut mittas eum in domum patrls mel ; habeo enlm quinqne fratres* 
"t test«tiir nils, ne et Ipsl venlant In hunc locum tormentorum.— Luke xvi. 27, 28. 

' Habeot Moysen et prophetas; audiant Illos.— Ibid. 29. 

* Non, Pater Abraham : sed si quls ex raortuis lerlt ad eos, poenltentiam agent.— Ibid. 30. 

* SI Moysen et prophetas non audiunt, neque, si quis ex mortuis resurrexerit, credent.— 
Ibid. 31. 

"lii JTiTi :7in.'' ill »ijni»|!;St*'H 


On Hearing the Word of God- 

On Hearing the Word of God, 





ing that the living could not, with all their representations, in- 
duce him to repent, or make any impression on his heart, en- 
trusted this office to the dead. His father, who had died some 
years previous, appeared to him one night. *' Son," he said, in a 
terrible and impressive voice, " Son, give up your wicked ways! 
you are not acting on the instruction I gave you during my life. 
Be converted to God, and banish the object of your impure 
passion from your house, out of your sight and out of your heart, 
or else, woe to you!" Having spoken thus, he dit^appeared. 
The son was somewhat frightened at first, but he did not make 
the least effort to repent. The father appeared to him a second 
time, and repeated his former warning, adding that there was 
still time for grace, but that, if he deferred his conversion, an 
unhappy death was appointed for him by the divine justice; he 
should die suddenly on St. Martin's day and go at once into 
eternal torments. Who would not think that this threat, at all 
events, would induce the young man to open his eyes? But no 
such thing; he paid not the least attention to it, and continued 
on in sin as before. Nay, to show how little he thought of the 
threat, he prepared a grand entertainment for St. Martin's feast, 
and spent the day in feasting, carousing, and indulging his im- 
pure passion. On the following morning he was laughing with 
his boon companions at what he called his idle dreams. " See,'' 
he said, '* I was to die on St. Martin's day, and here I am as well 
as ever I was in my life I" Hardly had he said those words, and 
as he was on the point of going to his paramour, he fell dead 
on the ground and that, too, on the feast of the holy Pope and 
Martyr, St. Martin, which immediately follows that of St. Mar- 
tin, Confessor and Pontiff. Thus his father's threat was literally 
fulfilled. From this we can clearly see that, if one Avho is in the 
state of sin is so blhided by his passions and evil inclinations 
that he will not hear the word of God, or be moved by it to re- 
pentance, neither will he be induced to amend even if one were 
to rise from the grave to warn him. *' Neither will they believe, 
if one rise again from the dead." 
Tbevery Siuucr, if, in spite of your wicked life, you do not perhaps 
thT^'rd'of ^^'^^ ^ sudden and unprovided death, yet you have reason to 
God is a shud'cler when you think of another punishment that an angry 
God may have already inflicted on you for your sins. And 
what is that? your very negligence and carelessness about hear- 
ing sermons, or the fact that you hear them without amending 
your life; that is one of the severest punishments that can be 

divine pun 

inflicted on vour sins. Hear the threat that God utters by the 
Prophet Jeremias: -' Thus saith the Lord of Hosts: Behold I ^ 
will send upon them the sword, and the famine, and I wdl per- 
secute them with the sword and with famine; and I will give 
them up unto affliction to all the kingdoms of the earth; to be 
a curse, and an astonishment, and a hissing, and a reproach to 
all the mitions." And why? what have they done? ''Because 
thev have not hearkened to My words, saith the Lord, which I 
sent to them bv My servants, the prophets."^ And what kind 
of a famine was God to inflict on them? He explains it by 
the Propliet Amos: '' Behold the days come, saith the Lord; 
and I will send forth a famine into the land; not a famine of 
bread, nor a thirst of water, but of hearing the word of the 
Lord.'" They do not care for my word; they hardly deign to 
hear it, and therefore their punisiiment shall be that I will 
deprive' them of all inclination and desire to hear it; they are 
not worthy of that spiritual food, and tlierefore they shall 
perish with hunger, and shall live and die in the unhappy state 
of sin. Certainly a most fearful punishment! exclaims the 
holy Pope, St. Gregory; 'Uhus, by a hidden decree of God's 
Providence, His holy word is witlidrawn from those who do not 
deserve to be aroused by grace to amend their lives." ' 

It is a punishment which presages eternal punishment here- ^°^*^^ 
after in hell. Remarkable is the well-known simile in which ner'seternai 
Jesus Christ distinguishes between the elect and tlie reprobate: damnation. 
" And He shall sot the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on 
His left."* Thus the sheep area figure of the elect, and the 
goats of the reprobate. But the Prophet David, speaking of 
sinners, says: "They are laid in hell like sheep; death shall 
feed upon them."* And how can that be? If, according to 
the words of Our Lord, the sheep shall be on His right hand at 
the last day, how can the expression, " They are laid in hell 
like sheep," be justified? Yet, says St. Augustine, both those 
texts are true; all who belong to tlie true Church are sheep of 

» Hseo, dlcit D<^minus exercituum : Ecce mittnm in eos gladlum et famem . . . ef persequar 
eos in gladio et In fame, et dabo eos in vexationem iiniversis repmis terrae : In maledic- 
tionem, et in stuporetn, et in sibilum, et in opprobrium cunctis gentlbus. Eo quod non 
audierintverbamea, dicitDominus, quaemisiau eos per servos meos prophetas.— Jerem. 

xxix. 17-19. 

» Ecce dies veniunt, dicit Domlnus; et mittam famem In terram, non famem panls 
neqne sitim aquae, sed audiendi verbum Domini.— Amos vlii. 11. 

' Subtili ergo, occultoque judlclo a quorumdam aurlbus praedicatio sancta subtrahltur, 
qui suscitarl per gratiam non merentur.— St. Greg. hom. 4 in cap. 10 Matt. 

* Statuet oves quidem a dextrls suis, hsedos autera a sinlstris.-Matt. xxv. 38. 

• Sicut oves In Inferno posit! sunt; mors depascet .eos.— Ps. xlviii. 15 




On Hearing the Word of God, 

On Hearing the Word of God, 


the fold of Jesus Christ, who says of Himself, '' I am the good 
Shepherd;"' all who belong to My fold, are sheep; but all are 
not elect sheep. But how can we distinguish those who arc 
chosen for heaven from those who are doomed to hell? They 
who acknowledge Jesus Christ as their Shepherd, are the elect; 
"I know mine, and mine know me."" Thev on the other 
hand, that, do not acknowledge Him, are reprobate sheep. But 
who are they that acknowledge Christ as their Shepherd? Our 
Lord Himself answers this question: ''My sheep liear My 
voice,'*" He says; and they will be placed on My right hand; 
they are the elect. Those who do not hear My voice. My word, 
are sheep indeed; but they are not My sheep; '' they are laid 
in hell like sheep." 
Shown by Amongst the number of the latter was that unhappy man of 

an example, i ▼ i tt-, ., , , -, • 

Whom James de Vitry writes; he could never be persuaded to 

go to a sermon; what do I want with sermons? he wonld say; 

I can preach well enough for myself. At last he died, and his 



body was brought to the cHrch to be buried, 
funeral office that, according to the custom of the Catholic 
Church, was held for the soul of the deceased man, all who 
were present suddenly saw to their great consternation the 
crucifix, that was placed at the head of the coffin, tear its hands 
out of the nails and stop both its ears with them. The priest, 
seeing this, turned to the people and said to them: you know 
well what this means; during his life this man neglected the 
word of God, and never went to a sermon, " and therefore God 
now closes His ears, so as not to hear the prayers we are offering 
for his soul." * It is clear enough, therefore, that his soul is in 
hell; there is no use in praying for him any more, nor shall his 
body be buried in consecrated ground; let it be buried out in 
the field. And so it was done. 

*• He that hath ears to hear, let him hear," * said Christ, speak- 
ing of the seed of the word of God. I conclude with the same 
the Word of words, my dear brethren, ''he that hath ears to hear,? let him 
rt^t^° be diligent in hearing the word of God ; for it is necessary for 
all men frequently to hear it, if they wish to save their souls. 
It is necessary for the innocent and the just, that they may be 
encouraged and strengthened to continue in ihe divine service, 

* E<?o sura pastor bonus.— John x. 14. 

* Cojfnosco raeas, et coprnoscunt me meae.— Ibid. 
» Oves meae vocem meam audlunt.— Ibid. 27. 

* Propter quod Deus obduravlt aures suas, ne audlat preces quas pro eo f undlmus. 

* Qiil habet aures audiendl, audlat.-^ Matt. xlll. 9. 

and resolu- 
tion to hear 

to abstain from sin, and always to belong to the number of those 
chosen sheep who hear the voice of their Shepherd. It is es- 
pecially necessary for those who are actually in the state of 
sin that they may be moved to repentance and amendment, 
unless they wish to be numbered among the reprobate sheep, 
who are rejected by the Shepherd and doomed to hell. Merciful 
God, save us from that terrible fate ! We all who are here 
present declare that we desire to be together at Thy right 
hand, among Thy chosen sheep ; and therefore we have met 
to-day to hear Thy voice, to learn Thy law, and to fulfil Thy 
holy will. We thank Thee, God of goodness, that Thou hast 
triven to us such frequent opportunities of hearing Thy word, in 
preference to so many people to Avhom the bread of life is 
broken but sparingly. We receive that word with the most 
heartfelt gratitude, and we shall be always ready to follow the 
light that Thou sheddest on us so abundantly. IS'othing but 
absolute necessity shall prevent us from hearing Thy warning 
voice, so that we may one day, to our great joy, hear Thy sweet 
invitation to eternal bliss : Come, ye blessed of My Father, and 
follow Me into the eternal kingdom. Amen. 

Another Introduction to the same sermon for the first Sunday 

after Epiphany, 


Invenerunt ilium in iemplo, sedcntem in medio dodorum, atc- 
dientem illos, et interrogaktern eos. — Luke ii. 46. 
' " They found Him id the temple, sitting in the midst of the 
doctors, hearing them and asking them questions." 


Mark those words, my dear brethren. He who, to show His un- 
heard of love to men, could not wait for the time of His bitter 
passion and death, when He was to shed the last drop of His 
Blood, but already as an Infant eight days old poured out 
the first drops of His precious Blood in the Circumcision ; 
He would not wait for the time of IIi3 public mission to instruct 
and convert men, but commenced that office already in the 
twelfth 3'ear of His age, when IIq was found amongst the doctoiy 
in the temple, explaining the law to them by question and ani 
svver. Ah! dearest Saviour, if we had only the^ happiness of 
hearing Thy sermons and instructions but once ; what an effect 


On Hearing the Word of God. 

would they not have on our hearts ! But what am I saying ? 
Although it is now nearly two thousand years since Thou didst 
appear in the world in visible form, 3/et Tliou still preachest 
Thy divine word, and explainest Thy law by the mouths of Thy 
preachers and priests. Alas ! I should rather exclaim, would 
that all Thy Christians were diligent enough in hearing Thy 
word I How much would not the just profit thereby for their 
salvation, as well as sinners for their conversion ! I have else- 
where proved, my dear \iVQ\\\x^i\\— continues as above. 

Several Sermons on the Necessity and Advantage of hearing the 
Word of God are contained in the preceding First and Second 
Parts, as icell as in the following Fourth and Fifth Parts. 





i \ 





lie who labors during the night, that is to say, while ho is in 
the state of mortal sin, gains nothing by all the good works he 
performs, by all the trials he endures ; therefore the state of sin 
is an unhappy and a miserable one, and he who is in that state 
slionld free himself from it as soon as possible, by true penance, 
while every one should be on his guard against falling into it. — 
Preached on the fourth Sunday after Pentecost. 


Per totam noctem laborantes, nihil cepimus. — Luke v. 5. 
" We have labored all the night and have taken nothing." 


Fruitless labor is always painful. ^N'o matter what trouble one 
takes, one never regrets it as long as it is successful; but when 
all one's toil and labor come to nothing, then {here is a bitter 
sense of disappointment. We see an example of that in the dis- 
ciples in to-day's Gospel. " Let down your nets for a draught," 
said Our Lord to Simon. What is the use? answered the latter; 
"Master, we have labored all the night, and have taken noth- 
ing; " we are tired of it. How many there are in the world now, 
my dear brethren, who resemble those disappointed fishermen, 
who labor and take nothing! How many there are who, at the 

hour of death, looking back on their past lives, mnst give vent 



On Hearing the Word of God. 

would they not have on our hearts ! But what am I saying ? 
Although it is now nearly two thousand years since Thou" didst 
appear in the world in yisible form, yet TIiou still preachest 
Thy divine word, and explainest Thy law bv the mouths of Thy 
preachers and priests. Alas ! I should rather exclaim, would 
that all Thy Christians were diligent enough in hearing Thy 
word ! How much would not the just profit thereby for their 
salvation, as well as sinners for their conversion ! I have else- 
where proved, my dear brethren— coy^/'/Mz/e^ as above. 

Several Sermons on the Necessity and Advantage of hearing the 
Word of God are contained in the preceding First and Second 
Parts, as well as in the fulloioing Fourth and Fifth Parts 






He who labors during the night, that is to say, while ho is in 
the state of mortal sin, gains nothing by all the good works he 
performs, by all the trials he endures ; therefore the state of sin 
is an unhappy and a miserable one, and he who is in that state 
should free himself from it as soon as possible, by true penance, 
while every one should be on his guard against falling into it.— 
Preached on the fourth Sunday after Pentecost, 

Per totam noctem laborantes, nihil cepimus.—Luke v. 5. 

" We have labored all the night and have taken nothino-. 



Fruitless labor is always painful. No matter what trouble one 
takes, one never regrets it as long as it is successful; but when 
all one's toil and labor come to nothing, then there is a bitter 
sense of disappointment. We see an example of that in the dis- 
ciples in to-day's Gospel. '' Let down your nets for a draught," 
said Our Lord to Simon. What is the use? answered the latter; 
"Master, we have labored all the night, and have taken noth- 
ing; " we are tired of it. How many there are in the world now, 
my dear brethren, who resemble those disappointed fishermen, 
who labor and take nothing! How many there are who, at the 
hour of death, looking back on their past lives, must give vent 




22 Vain Labor of those who are in the State of Sin, 

to this fruitless complaint; I have lived now for thirty, forty, 
fifty, sixty, or seventy years; I have troubled myself about a 
great many things; I have had a great deal to suffer, and many 
difficulties to contend with, and now I see that it is all of little 
or no use to my soul; ''We have taken nothingi" And how is 
that? Most people are like Martha; they are careful about many 
things; during their whole lives they are busied about tempoi:al 
concenis, while they forget that one important business, of 
which Our Lord said to Martha, '' But one thing is necessary,''* ' 
the last thing they think of is their immortal souls and eternal 
happiness. These people will have to say, " We have taken 
nothing." There are others, too, who, according to their cwii. 
idea, labor for the kingdom of heaven, and perform many good 
works, but not those which their state of life binds them to 
perform: they too will have to say, " We have taken nothing." 
Again, there are numbers who try to do what God wishes them 
to do according to their state, but they have not a pure inten- 
tion, they forget to labor for God. Ah, poor people that you 
are! when you go to rest at night, you may well cry out, ''we 
liave taken nothing." Finally, there are some who perform 
many good works, but they labor during the night, that is to 
say, in the state of mortal sin; their lot is deserving of the great- 
est commiseration, for they take absolutely nothing; their 
labor is utterly useless. I shall speak to-day of those latter alone, 
since they are represented in the Gospel, and I say. 

Plan of Discourse. 

He who labors duriyig the night, that is to say, while he is in 
the state of mortal sin, gains nothing by all the good works he 
performs , by all the trials he endures; therefore the state of sin 
is an unhappy and a miserable one, and he who is in that state 
should free himself from it as soon as possible by true penance, 
while all of us should be constantly on our guard againt falli^ig 
i?itoit. Such is the whole subject of this sermon. 

May the great God enlighten our understandings to acknowledge 
the truth now proposed for our consideration, and excite our wills ' 
to follow and adhere strictly to the conclusion to be derived from 
it; this we ask through the intercession of Mary and the holy 
guardian angels, that wo may not hereafter have to complain 
that we have labored all the night, and have taken nothing. 

* Porfo unum est necessarium.— Luke jc. 48. 

Vain Labor of those who are in the State of Sin. 23 

It does not require much argument to show that by the night, 
[in a moral sense, is meant the time during which a soul is in the 
[state of sin. No comparison is more frequently used than this 
[by the Holy Scripture, and by the fathers of the Church, when 
[they speak of sin and sinners. " What is the life of a sinner,'' 
[asks St. Gregory, " but a night," ^ from which, as soon as sin is 
Iconseuted to, the sun of justice is withdrawn, even in tlio day- 
jtime, and the light of the soul, sanctifying grace, disappears ? 
"Let us therefore," is the exhortation of St. Paul to the Ro- 
mans, " cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armor of 
light;"" the "night is past, and the day is at hand." ' "For 
you were heretofore darkness; " he writes to his Ephesian cor- 
jverts, " but now light in the Lord. Walk then as children of 
the light; and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of 
darkness."* And just as during the night, when no light is 
shining, and when all things are hidden from the eyes of men, 
no matter what signs or gestures one makes, no one can pay any 
[attention to them, so that it is the time for thieves and 
robbers to ply their trade, which courts the darkness; so, if 
I your soul is in the spiritual night of sin, all your good wo:k.s, no 
matter how excellent they may be in themselves, will bo passed 
'over unnoticed by God, although He is present everywhere. 
And is there, then, a night so dark that the eye of God cannot 
penetrate it, or that it can conceal anything from Him? No! 
says the Prophet David; be on your guard, sinners, for even 
in the dark, in the gloomiest corner, the omnipresent God sees 
'all the abominations you commit: " Darkness shall not be dark 
to Thee, and night shall be light as the day. " ' If I were to hide 
myself in the bowels of the earth, or in the darkest corner of 
hell, even there Thou art present, my God; even there Thy 
all-seeing eye would behold me! " Whither shall I go from Thy 
Spirit ? or whither shall I flee from Thy face? If I ascend up 
into heaven. Thou art there; if I descend into hell. Thou art 
there. " " But God does not regard the good Avorks of the sinner, 
because, since they are performed by one who is unworthy, on 
account of the state in whit;h he is, they do not deserve to be 

^ Quid est peccatorls vita, nisi nox ? 

- Abjiclamusergo opera tenebrarum, et Induamur arma lucis.— Uom. xill. 12. 

' Nox prascessit, dies autem approplnquavit.— Ibid. 

* Eratis enlm aliquando tenebrae, nunc autem lux in Domino ; ut fllii'lucLs ambulate. . 
et nolite communlcare operibus Infructuosls tenebrarum.— Ephes. v. 8, 11. 

" Tenebrae non obscurabuntur a te, et nox r.icut dies illuminabitur. -Ps. oxxxvill. 12. 

^ Quo ibo a spiritu tuo, et quo a fade tua fuglam ? Si ascendero in coelum, tu Illlc es, si 
descendero in Infemum, ades .—Ibid. 7, 8. 

God does 
not regard 
good worlkS 
that are per- 
formed in 
the state oi' 

they are 
by one who 
Is un- 


sight of 

24 Vain Labor of those who are in the State of Sin. 

looked on favorably by the Lord of holiness. For God does not 
regard the work itself so much as the disposition of him who 
■ - performs it; lie does not value the gift, but rather the hand 

that bestows it. We have an example of this in the Book of 
Genesis, in the two brothers Cain and Abel. Cain offered sacri- 
fice to God, and Abel did the same; but how differently their 
offerings were received! " The Lord had respect to Abel and to 
Lis offerings," says the Holy Scripture; but to ** Cain and his 
offerings he had no respect; "' if as they did not concern Him 
in the least. What was the reason of the difference? Abel was 
just and innocent; Cain was unjust and wicked; the one offered 
with a good, the other with a bad intention. " Abel," says St. 
Gregory, " was not made pleasing by his gifts, but Abel himself 
made the gift pleasing in the sight of God. " " And on the other 
hand, God did not reject Cain on account of his gifts, but the 
gifts on account of Cain. 
Who Is alto- Nor is this to be wondered at, my dear brethren, for men act 
Ketherhate- qjj ^j^g same principle every day. Let the most dainty food be 
served up in a dirty dish, and you would turn away from it in 
disgust. And why ? the food is very good ? Yes ; but it ought 
to be served in cleaner fashion. If there is one whom you 
dislike, either naturally, or because he has insulted you and 
given yon just cause for anger, no matter wliat he does, lie will 
never please you ; you put a bad construction on his best 
acts, and you cannot even bear to hear him well spoken of. 
But who can adequately describe tlie bitter hatred, the aversion 
and disgust, with which the God of all holiness looks on the 
accursed and odious person of one who is in the state of sin? It 
is true that of Himself He is a God of infinite goodness and 
love, who looks upon with fervor and loves even the meanest 
things He has created. *' For Thou lovest all things that 
are, and hatcst none of the things which Thou hast made." • 
But the sinner alone He has excluded from His work. He 
cannot bear the sight of him, but pursues him with the bitter- 
est hatred, although in His infinite mercy He leaves him still 
in life, in the hope that he will repent. '' Thou hatest all the 
workers of iniquity," says the prophet David to God, and that 
so bitterly that they dare not appear before Thee : "Neither 

1 Bespexit Domlpus ad Abel et ad munera ejus ; ad Cain vero et ad munera iillus pon 
respexit— Gen. Iv. 4-5. 
' Non Abel ex munerlbus, sed ex Abel munera plaraerunt.— St, Greflr. In Job, 1. ^, e» 8. 
* Dlligis enlm omnia quse sunt, et nihil odistl eorum qusD fecistl.— Sap. xl. 25. 

Vain Labor of those %vho are in the State of Sin, 25 

shall the wicked dwell near Thee; nor shall the unjust abide 
before Thy eyes." ' 

Do vou wish, my dear brethren, to see a proof of the intensity '^^ ^°*®'*- 
of this hatred from it effects? Then imagine a soul that has jiatred with 
lived for hundreds of vears in the greatest innocence and sane- which God 

" re''srds the 

tity ; if it consents but in thought to a single mortal sin, iu ^i siQuerap- 
moment the God of infinite goodness, in spite of that soul's pears from 
long-continued service, and of the painful death by which He^*^^°^*^* 
so superabundantly atoned for that same sin, will forget all its 
former good works and all the treasures of merit it had accumu- 
lated. Hear what He says Himself by tlie prophet Ezechiel: 
*^ But if the just man turn himse- f away from his justice, and 
do iniquity," what shall befall him? **all his justices, which 
he had done, shall not be remembered.' Is not this a mark of 
bitter hatred and displeasure against the sinner? To understand 
this still more clearly, descend in thought into the fiery prison 
of hell, and see there a soul condemned to burn in eternal 
flames, without hope of alleviation or release, for having con- 
sented to a single sinful thought. Who 'has condemned that 
soul to such a punishment? The God ot infinite mercy and 
justice. Through all eternity He will see that soul, which He 
created to His own image and redeemed by His precious Blood, 
tortured by demons. He will hear its bowlings and lamentinga 
without being in the least moved to pity. Oh, certainly a most 
implacable hatred I Terrible it is to read what Louis of Bloia 
says (but before I quote him, I must crave thy permission, 
holiest of all creatures, dearest Mother Mary! I know well that 
thou hast never been guilty of the least fault. I rejoice and 
congratulate thee from my heart that, humanly speaking, it 
was impossible for thee to consent to a sin) : **If the Mother 
of God, the most Blessed Virgin, had committed a mortal sin 
and had died without being truly very sorrow for it, she would 
never have gone to heaven, but would be tortured eternally 
amongst the demons in hell."' just God, is Thy hatred of 
the sinner so great that Thou wouldst have cursed and cast off 
frora Tlvee, into eternal fire, Thy own beloved Mother, on ac- 
count of one mortal sin, if it had been possible for her to com- 

• OdJstI omnes, qui operantur Inlqultatem. Neque habltablt Juxta te mallfnius ; neque 
permanebunt Injustl ante oculos tuos.— Ps. v. 7, 6. ' 

' ai autem averterit se Justus a justltia sua, et fecerit inlqultatem, omnes lustitlse ejus, 
quas fecerat, non recordabuntur.— Ezech. xvlll. 24. 

' 81 Mater ChrisU Domini Virgo Beatlssima peccasset mortallter, et sine cohtrltlone mortua 
osset : ooelum nunquam obtlnulsset, sed cum daemonlbus in inferno cruclaretur. 

■y^ji'.k^' m.^y '^^^"^'^^y^f'^m^r 

yy ■^CT'y -yr^yiv. ^r 

such worts 
are un- 
worthy In 

-As the least 
Ifood works 
done In the 
state of 
grace are 
precious In 
the sijfht of 

26 Fam Labor of those who are in the State of Sin, 


mit it.^ How great, then, must it not be towards me and others 
If we are actually in the deplorable state of sin! Consider now' 
my dear brethren, whether one who is so hateful to God can do 
anything pleasing to Ilim or can have any merit in Ilis si-ht 
whatever good works he performs. No; no matter what goo^d is 
done, as long as it is done in the night, that is, in the state of 
8m, It will be of no vahie; and they who are in tl^at state will 
ever have reason to say, - we have labored all the night, and 
have taken nothinrr." 

Bat supposing even that the person of the sinner were not so 
hateful and displeasing in the sight of God, and, as a matter of 
fact, the good God in His endless mercy and, so to speak, in spite 
of His anger and displeasure, often displays the greatest pa- 
tience m bearing with the most wicked sinners for years, and 
in waiting for them to repent, while He never ceases showerina 
down upon them temporal blessings and visiting them with His 
inspirations and graces, as if He could not help loving them 
Btill; yet the works of those sinners, no matter how praiseworthy 
they may be in themselves, have not the least supernatural merit 
in the sight of God, because they are performed '' in the nio^ht " 
On a dark night, when you have no light, place on one sid^'e of 
you a piece of precious gold, and on the other a lump of clay 
or put on one side-gf beautiful statue, on the other the image of a 
hideous demon, and tell me which of the two vou prefer which 
you consider the more beautiful. H you consult yoiir eves 
alone, you cannot distinguish either the value or the beaut/ of 
the different objects, because it is night, and everything seems 
black to you. 

Oh, how precious, how indescribably beautiful in the sight of 
God, are the good works of him who is in the clear dav, that is 
m the state of sanctifying grace ! what great treasures they 
amass f A single sigh sent forth to God by such a man, a bit of 
bread, a drink of cold water that he gives to the poor, each step 
he tak-es, every movement of his hands, every blow of his ham- 
mer, every use that he makes of tlie different implements of 
his trade, nay every mouthful of food he takes, although he en- 
joys it, provided all this is done with a supernatural intention 
for God's sake, how valuable is it not in Thy sight, Lord! Xo 
matter how trivial and worthless each of those acti(tns is in itself 
yet It merits an eternity of glory in heaven, which the just 
Judge will give him who performs it, if he dies in the state of 
grace. Amen, I say to you, such is the solemn asseveration of 

Vain Labor of those who are in the State of Sin. 27 

Our Lord Himself : " Whosoever shall give to drink to one of 
these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a dis- 
ciple, amen, T say to you, he shall not lose his reward. '* ' Jf in 
one side of the balance would be placed all the great and heroic 
deeds of the greatest generals, kings, and emperors, as they 
have been handed down to us in history, from the beginning 
of the world, would they not make a great weight indeed? What 
wonder and admiration they still excite in us, when we hear or 
read of them! But place in the other scale a single *'Our Father " 
said by some poor woman with proper devotion, or a five minutes' 
work that the ignorant ploughman offers to God, or the little 
trouble that the housemaid has in sweeping out a room; oh, how 
quickly will it not weigh down, in the sight of God, all the 
greatest deeds of the most illustrious men! All those great ex- 
ploits which excite the wonder of the world, when compared to 
a single good work of one who is in the state of grace, resemble 
the labor of a fly in comparison to the celebrated tower of Babel; 
because, great as those exploits are, they do not exceed the limits 
of nature, while the good works of the just man are supernatural 
and, being united with tlie works of Jesus Christ, are pleasing 
to the God of infinite greatness, and deserve an eternity of 
happiness. truly happy state of the just soul! what treasures 
and riclies it can accumulate in a day, an hour, nay at every 
moment! ye poor peasants, laborers, and servants, and all ye 
to whom Divine Providence has allotted either hard wwk, or 
trials and crosses, ah, see above all that you are in the state of 
grace, and do not forget the good intention! How rich you are! 
What an exceeding great reward is in store for that seemino-U* 
worthless labor of yours! 

But miserable, indeed, is your soul, sinner, since you labor Sothegreat- 
in the night! All your undertakings are black, and useless, and ^''7^''' 
UTiprofitable! Suppose that to-day or yesterday vou have com- iTtlTu, 
mitted a grievous sin in thought; say that vou remain in that^^'^"^"' 
siafor the next six months without confessiJn and without true ^r 
sorrow for it, although you have the intention of confessin^r it ^'^' 
hereafter, and you commit no other sin during that time, while 
you live m other respects a Christian life: vou go to church arid 
hear Mass every day devoutly; you observe fJ:c appointed fasts; 
you give alms to the poor; you labor and work according to 
your condition with a good intention, because God requires you 

^^iXTZ^^^lT"''' ""Lf " "'°""^' ''''' ^""^^"^ aqu^frlffld^ tantum In nomine 
»^'i»Ju , amen dice vobls. non perdet mercedern suan. -ilatt x. 48. 

Thus the 
labors in 
vain witli- 
out merit. 

28 Vaiit Labor of those who are in the State of Sin, 

to do so; you bear many a cross, and difficulty, and contradiction 
with Christian patience, contentment, and resignation to the 
aivine will; nay more, suppose that you give all you have 
to the poor, that you practise every imaginable work of Christian 
chanty, tiiat you fast continually and scourge yourself daily 
even to blood, that you beat your breast with a stone, like St. 
Jerome, that you go through India and Japan like St. Francis 
Xavier and convert 1,200,000 souls, that you bear with the great- 
est patience and meekness all kinds of persecutions, sickness, 
poverty, hunger, ancj the most fearful torments, like the martyrs 
of Christ; when you have done all that, look back upon it in 
thought, and see what you have gained, what you have merited by 
it. Perhaps you will think that you have done wonders, and will 
say, like him whom St. John reproves in the Apocalypse, " I am 
rich and n-Je wealthy, and have need of nothing,'^ but I am 
sorry for you, because '' thou knowest not that thou art wretched, 
and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked;" ' you are just 
as badly oif as you were when you began. 

Hear what St. Paul says : " If I should liave all faith, so that 
I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 
And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and If 

1 should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it 
profiteth me n6thing.''» That is to say, without sanctifying 
grace all these gifts and good works arc of no avail. You have 
certainly made great strides with those good works of yours, but 
not on the right road ; you have tii ed yourself running in a cir- 
cle, but you have approached no nearer to the goal? '' Your 
soul," as St. Basil says, '^ia like a Itsc hive, in which there is no 
honey, and in which none can he made." By your good woris, 
you have gained no more for heaven, than one who pays a large 
sum of money in a lottery, hoping to win something, and draws 
nothing but blanks. You have borne with many trials arid con- 
tradictions, but not otherwise than a heavily laden beast of 
burden, tliat is urged on during the day with blows, and, in the 
evening, is turned into a comfortless stable. " They are not in 
the labor of men," ' says the Prophet David. They labor like 
the dumb animal ; they bear their cross, they suffer hunger, and 

» Dicis. quod dives sum et locupletatus, et nullius egeo, et nescls quia tu es miser et 
miserabilis, et pauper, et caecus, et nudus.-ikpoc. ili, 17. 

2 Et si habuero omnem fldem, Ita ut montes transferam, charltatem autem non babuero 
Bihil sum ; et si distribuero In cJbos pauperum omnes facultates meas, et si tradldero corpus 
meum Ita nt ardeam, charltatem autem non habuero, nihil mlhl prodest.— I. Cor. xlli. 2 8 

' iDlaborehomlnumnonsunt.— Ps. IzJdI. 5. * ' * !_' ' 


Vain Labor of those who are in the State of Sin, 29 

want, and misery, caused by themselves or by others : whether 
they bear them patiently or not, they have no consolation from 
God, no merit for eternity, and at night they retire to rest with 
their miserable sonls crushed under the yoke of the devil. In a 
word, you have nothing left, but to sigh like the disciples: 
"We have labored all the night and have taken nothing,'* 
because you have not sanctifying grace, which is necessary to give 
good works their life, their beauty, and their value. Such is the 
general teaching of theologians, taken from Holy Scripture. 

Oh ! truly unhappy is the state of the sinner ! Helabors and ^a** 
gains nothing ! The bare thought of this, is enough to make me ^depL- 
weep burning tears of pity ! When I see a man working hard able state l 
for his daily bread, or a beggar stretching out his hands "for an 
alms, a sick ^an lying on a bed of suffering, a destitute man 
bewailing his misery, or an unfortunate man oppressed with 
crosses and trials ; oh ! I think, if he is only in the state of 
grace, he enjoys consolation from God, he has the peace of a 
good conscience, and he can expect a reward in heaven for all 
his sufferin"gs ; at least he need only offer them to God with a 
pure intention, in order to gain the reward. But if he is in the 
night, if he has lost sanctifying grace by one mortal sin, alas for 
his poor soul ! All his labors and trouble are fruitless. '' Write 
this man barren," I say of him, as God said of King Jechonias 
to the Prophet Jeremias. But why ? Jechonias had still eight 
sons living ; how could he then be looked on as barren ? God 
Himself gives the reason : - For there shall not be a man of his 
seed that shall sit upon the throne of David, and have power any 
more in Juda.'- Therefore write him barren. The same is 
true of the sinner ; in spite of the superabundance of his good 
works and all his labor and trouble, he remains barren, because * 
not one of his works will ever reach the throne of God. You 
may see from this, my dear brethren, in what a gloomv and hor- 
nble night sin encamps the human soul, by taking away from 
the hohest and most praiseworthy acts of virtue, and from the 
rewlrd''' "'"''^ °^^"^^^io«s trials, a^ll their beaut)-, worth, and 

And^ there is another circumstance which makes this night far And au the- 
more terrible than our natural night. For although the latter "^"'^ ^ ^- 
hides the beauty and value of objects from the eye, mat- ^Z wol. 
t«r now black the darkness, it cannot interfere with the essential ^an never 

DaTld/et pSut^mZh?.^ I'll' Tr ?"^ ^""^ '" ^"^*°" ^^^ ^^' '^"^ ^^^^ super solium to becime " 
.eipoiestatemhabeatultraInJuaa.-Jerem.xxU.30. . meritorious^ 

-w ■r«ai>««-laitM«' 11 "i 





30 Vain Labor of those who are in the State of Sin, 

value or splendor of anything ; it leaves everything unaltered, so 
that, when the day comes, objects are seen in their proper colors, 
the gold glitters as usual, beauty shows itself in its splendor as 
before. But it is far worse with the night of sin ; for even after 
It 18 driven away and sanctifying grace restored to the soul by 
penance, the good works performed in the state of sin remain 
just as black as before, without merit and without reward, which 
they can never expect for all eternity. 
fl^ft^mV, ^ ^""^ ^"^ ^^^ ^^^ Testament a striking figure of what occurs in 
Holy scrip, the soul of a Sinner. According to divine command, if a Hebrew 
««^ were bought as a slave, his purchaser was bound to give him his 

freedom after seven years : - If thou buy a Hebrew servant, six 
years shall he serve thee; \n the seventh he shall go out free for 
nothing. '^ ' And, besides that, if he had a wife and children when 
he became a slave, they too were to be freed with him at the 
appointed time, and he was to receive the same kind of clothing 
as that he originally had. " With what raiment he came in, 
with the like let him go out; if having a wife, his wife also shall 
go out with him. " » But if he had married and had children 
during the first six years of his slavery, he, indeed, was to be 
freed m the seventh year, but his wife and children had to re- 
main in slavery. " But if his master gave him a wife, and she 
hath borne sons and daughters, the woman and her children 
shall be her master^s; but he himself shall go out with his 
raiment.^' ' Do you see what is meant by this figure, my dear 
brethren? By baptism man is endowed with the freedom" of the 
children of God; but when he commits mortal sin, he sells him- 
self of his own accord as a slave to the devil, and God says by 
^ the prophet Isaias: '' Behold, you are sold for vour iniquities. ''* 
Now the good God has given him a means of freeing himself 
from this slavery; not merely after six years, but in any year, at 
any moment that he wishes, as soon as he truly repents, he will 
be set at liberty, as the Apostle says: she " shall be delivered from 
the servitude of corruption, into the liberty of the glory of the 
children of God.- • But how? What will he take back with 
him when he is restored to freedom? His children, that is 

fa J! SI! 2! "^"^^ Hebreum. sex annls servlet tibl. In septlmo ew^Jetur Uber giutte.- 

-IbSV"*^* '"^ ^'™'''^'' '"° "^ ^""^^ ' '* ^**°' "^^^"' "' "^^^ esredletur slpul. 
» 81n uitem domlnus dederit UU uxorem, et pepererlt nilos et Alias ; mulier et Uberl 
•Ousernntdomlnlsnl, ipseveroexIbltcumvestItusuo.-Ibld. 4. 

* Eoce In Inlqoltatlbus vestrls vendlti estls.— Isa. 1. 1. 

• UberaWtar a serrltute corruptlonte, m llbertate^ ilorte miorum Del.-Rom. tIM. 21. 

Vain Labor of those who are in the State of Sin, 3 1 

to say, the good works he performed before he lost the state 
of grace, and which were brought by him into slavery, so that 
during that time he could receive no reward for them; but, 
according to the general teaching of theologians, when he has 
truly repented, those works revive- and are freed with him, clad 
in their former garment of sanctifying grace, like the children 
that the Hebrew slave had before losing his liberty. On the 
other hand, all the works performed in the state of sin remain 
behind; they do not revive; they are and must remain without 
merit or hope of reward. The labor they entailed is profitless, 
because they were performed in slavery, in the night of sin; and 
therefore it still remains true of them, '* we have labored all the 
night and have taken nothing. '* 

What are we to infer from this, my dear brethren? That The sinner 
there is no use in doing good when we are in the state of sin? ^^fo^ 
Oh, if that is so, one might say: as I have a mortal sin on my cease doing 
conscience, which I intend to repent of and confess hereafter, I ^^'^^ 
can meanwhile give up praying, hearing Mass, giving alms, and 
visiting the church. If I cannot merit anything by those works 
of devotion, why should I trouble myself with them? I do not 
see the good of working to no purpose. Your argument, sin- 
ner, is a very bad one; you say that, since you cannot do any- 
thing deserving of heaven, you will cease doing good altogether. 
But for that very reason you slionld be all the more diligent in 
doing good works. Suppose you have a piece of money that is 
broken into two parts, Avould you throw the pieces away? Not 
by any means! But what are they good for? they are no longer 
current coin. True, but the pieces are still worth something, 
and if I bring them to a silversmith he will give me a price for 
them. And so it is, due proportion being observed, with the 
good works you perform in the night of sin. They are not 
indeed current coin w^ith w^liich you can purchase heaven; they 
are broken and destroyed; but still they are good for something. 
And for what? 

St. Thomas of Aquin tells us. " Works of this kind," he says. That be may 
"have a threefold utility: they accustom us to do ffood, they *^ °'''^'"" 

__„ „ i«i^..,,,,. o» J tomed to do 

are a means of obtaining temporal blessings, and they dispose good, 
the soul to receive grace.'' * I will say nothing now of the tem- 
poral blessings, for they are of the least importance. They 
serve, then, first, to accustom one to good works. Why do sol- 

Operalsta ad triplex bonum valent: scilicet ad assuefactlonem bonorum operum, ad tem- 
porallum oonsecutlonem, et ad disposltionem ad gratlam.-8t. Thorn, tn addit., q. 14, a. 4. 


Vain Labor of those who are in the State of Sin, 


To avoid the 
divine ven- 
geance, and 
to obtain 
the grace of 
more speed- 

Shown by 
an example. 

diers in time of peace, when there is not an enemy near them, 
have to practise military exercises so often, to engage in sham 
fights, and to practise sliooting and the management of their 
weapons, not otherwise than if tliey were engaged in real warfare? 
Why do hnnters so often shoot at a target, although they know 
that they will not kill any game by tlie shot, and that at best 
they can hit only a piece of paper? Is not the labor fruitless in 
both those cases? By no means; practice of that kind serves to 
make the soldier expert in war, and the hunter in the chase; it 
enables the former to grapple with his enemy as soon as he seea 
him, and the latter to make sure of his aim, so as to secure the 
spoils of the chase. In the same way, sinner, the practice of 
good works will be of use to you, although you are actually in 
the state of sin. \xv so far your labor is fruitless, that you will 
never attain your end thereby; but it gives yon a good habit, 
a certain expertness in doing the same virtuous actions after- 
wards, when you are reconciled with God, and when they will 
be really meritorious of eternal life. 

In the second place, works of this kind dispose your soul to re- 
ceive the grace of God, and avert the divine anger from you for 
a tifne, so that you are not, as you deserve, punished with a sud- 
den death and condemned at once to eternal torments. Do you 
know what that Roman general did when, having lost a great 
number of his men, he was again attacked by the enemy ? He 
made a rampart of the dead bodies, and was thus enabled to fight 
with the remainder of his armv so as to avoid a total defeat. So 
should you also act, sinner I The good works that you per- 
form in the state of sin are but the dead bodies of virtues ; 5'et 
they can serve as a rampart to shield you from the wrath of G.od, 
and to preserve you from a fresh attack of Satan, until yon are 
enabled to take to flight by true penance. And in virtue of this 
humble acknowledgment of His claims on you, God in His 
mercy will keep you from further temptations, that you may not 
fall ipto greater sins, and finally become obdurate, and He will 
give you more powerful inspirations, illuminations, impulses, 
and better opportunities for conversion, so that you may recover 
His grace. 

As an instance of this, listen to the following examjole taken 
from the Annals of the Capuchin Order. When the celebrated 
preacher. Father Matthew de Pascio, Founder of that Order in 
the city of Venice, was at the height of his fame for sanctity, a 
certain learned man, wishing to make the acquaintanqe of the 

Vain Labor of those who are in the State of Sin. 33 

servant of God, invited him to table. There was in the house 
an ape that could wait at table, and clean the plates and glasses 
so well, that there were few servants who could excel it. When 
its master came home the ape would open the door for him, 
take charge of his hat and cloak, pull off his shoes, and, in a 
word, serve him with the utmost diligence. When Father Mat- 
thew heard of the wonderful ape, he asked to see it, but the 
ape, when it heard the Father coming, crept nnder a bed, and 
could not be induced to come out, either by blows or coaxing. 
Then the servant of God took by the hand the man who had 
invited him. '' Do you know,'' said he, "■ what kind of an ape 
you have in your house ? Come with me, and you will hear it 
out of its own mouth." He then commanded the supposed ape 
in the name of Jesus Christ to declare who he was, and why he 
consented to perform such abject services. *' I am the devil," 
answered the ape in an angry tone, ''and my only object in 
coming here is to carry off the soul of that man, which is already 
mine on several titles." "And why," asked the holy man, 
'' have you not done so during the many years that you have 
performed menial offices for him ? " '' Because," was the answer, 
''he was accustomed to say a few devout prayers to God and to 
the Blessed Virgin every night, and if he had omitted doing so 
but once, I had power from the Creator to strangle him, and 
carry him off with me to hell." The Father then banished the 
evil spirit and persuaded the man, who was more dead than alive 
through fright, to repent at once and to make restitution of 
some property he had unjustly acquired. See from this, sinner, 
whether the good w^orks performed in the state of sin are alto- 
gether useless. What would have become of that man's soul if 
he had used the same foolish reasoning as you do, and said : 
Why should I trouble myself about prayer? as long as I am in 
this state I can do nothing for heaven ; I will give up praying and 
all other good works. 

You should chansre your way of thinking, therefore, and if Therefore 

^ ■J *' ^ . . . . _ the sinner 


the sinner 
must see 

you wish to be reasonable, say rather : In the state in which 

now am I cannot merit heaven by any good works ; I must be how foolish 

mad and foolish, then, wilfully to bury my soul in this hideous ^^.a^^ 

darkness for the sake of a bad thought, a scandalous word, an 

impure look, a mere animal pleasure, that lasts but a moment ; 

like the spendthrift tradesman that sells all the implements of 

his craft, so that he cannot work at his trade to support himself. 

Do I not act far more foolishly when I commit sin ? For I have 



And never 
fall into It 

34 Fam Labor of those who are in the State of Sin. 

thereby lost all the spiritual treasures that I liacl arcnmnlated, and 

And free ""^ ^^'^ ^'^"'^ ^'"^"^ ^^^^^ deprived mjself of all means of meriting, 
himserat ^ """ ^'''''' laboring during the night and to no purj)osc. °I 
once from ^ust, then, at oiice free myself from my sins, and re^-ain the 

Z.T.Z '^'^' ^^-^* ^^ ^^•^^^- 1 ^^'^11 «^^^^^^ely repent of and confess my 
sins. I AviU not defer repentance any longer, nor wait till next 
Easter, or the next feast of the Blessed Virj-in, nav, not even 
till this evening. For why should I hear Mass so often on Sun- 
days and holydays, mortify myself so frequently bv fasting, and 
bear with so many crosses and trials, and yet gain no reward by 
It all ? Since I can merit eternal glory in lieaven every moment 
of this very day, ^rill I neglect doing so, determined as I am 
some time or other to do penance ? ]S^o, I will at once get rid 
of the heavy burden of my sins, and come forth out of this 
terrible darkness. 

And when you have once freed yourself from your sins, rejoice 
with all your, heart, thank the divine mercy, and make this irrev- 
ocable resolution (hear all ye pious and just souls! this does not 
concern you): In future I will be on my guard against nothing 
so much as sin, which envelops the soul in such a gloomy night; 
I will avoid tiie occasions that may lead me into it; I will not 
go near that house, that person, that companv. which has 
hitherto been a proximate occasion of sin to me; 'l will destroy 
that book, that picture^ which has been a stumbling-block to 
me; I will keep ^..^d on my heart, my eyes, ears, tongue, 
and all my sens^^, by which I have so ofte^i sinned; every morn- 
ing I will renew my resolution, and will earnestly and humbly 
beg of God to help me in temptations, and to keep me from sin 
I will be diligent in looking after my children and servants, so -as 
to keep them from the danger of sin, and I will perform all my 
works with a good intention for God^s sake, in order that, as I am 
now in the state of grace, not the least of them may be unre- 
warded. Let this, then, my dear brethren, be your final resolution • 
be faithful to it until death. Rather death than sin! According 
to the advice of the wise Ecclesiasticus, " Have pitv on thy own 
soul, pleasing God."^ If you have no reverence for the great 
God, who is present everywhere, who sees evervthing you do 
and whom you insult and offend; if the Precious" Blood of Jesus 
Christ, which you trample underfoot, can make no impression ou 
your heart; if you feel no compassion for your loving Saviour 
whose death, as the Apostle says, you renew by q^^t^ mortal sii' 

» Miserere anlmae tuse placens Deo.— Ecclus. xxx. 34. 

The Guilt of Deferring Repentance^ 


you commit; if you have no regard for your guardian angel, 
whom you sadden, and, as it were, drive away from you whedeiver 
you offend God; then at least have pity on your own soul, which 
you injure so grievously, so irretrievably, and for eternity, by 
bringing it into the night of sin. Be faithful, then, to your reso- 
lution; rather death than sin! Almighty God of infinite good- 
ness, give to me and all present the powerful help of Thy grace, 
that we may keep this resolution to the end of our lives. Amen. 




To intend to do penance and be con verted,. not now, but later 
on, is to treat most injuriously the good God who invites us 
again to return to Him. — Preached on the second Sunday after 


Cceperunt simul omnes excusare. — tuke xiv. 18. 
" And they began all at once to make excuse.'* 


They must have been very unmannerly and uucourteous people 
who, being invited in such a friendly way to a magnificent ban- 
quet, paid no attention to the invitation. Enraged at their con- 
duct, he who invited them excluded them forever from his 
table. " But I say unto you, that none of those men that were 
invited shall taste of my supper." Do not most men, my dear 
brethren, act in the same way towards their Lord and God? He 
invites us to His Supper, in which He gives us His own Flesh 
and Blood as our food and drink; and yet, how many there are 
who make excuses and despise that Precious Banquet, by going 
but seldom to holy Communion? He invites us to the heavenly 
marriage-feast, that we may share in all imaginable joys with 
Him forever; but how inany there are who excuse themselves and 
refuse to come, because they prefer to indulge in forbidden 

g;;^^;;^p?^5 gt^;ji^,A!A'WI!^Jfc\|;^^ 

Not to re- 
ceive at 
once the 
prace and 
pardon of- 
fered by a 
Ifreat lord 
whom you 
have of- 
ended, is to 
treat him 
most injur- 

36 T/ie Guilt of Deferri7tg Repe?itance, 

pleasures and to satisfy themselves with the husks of swine, and 
thus renounce all right to heaven. He still daily invites sinners, 
his hated and sworn enemies, to His grace and friendship. He 
calls upon them to be converted and do penance, and promises 
that He will readily forgive them everything, so that they may 
not be excluded from His heavenly marriage-feast; but how many 
there are who make excuses, and reject the proffered grace by 
constantly deferring repentance and conversion, bv putting off 
to some indefinite time, the Lord who invites them in snch a 
friendly manner, and by saying always, by way of answer, I will 
come, but not novv: later on; I will do penance and be convert- 
ed, but not immediately; at some other time! An insulting and 
injurious treatment, than which none worse can be imagined. 
This I undertake to prove to-day; and I say: 

Plan of Discourse. 

To intend to do penance and be converted, not noio, hut later on 
IS a great injustice towards the good God, who invites us again 
to return to Him. Such is the whole subject of this sermon. 

Christ JesusI who hast said that Thou camest, not to call the 
just, but sinners, call out to-day with Thv powerful and pene- 
trating voice to my heart and to the hearts of all sinners, that 
we may be attentive to Thy invitation, and may be converted 
to Thee at once! Prostrate at Thy feet, we beg this of Thee 
through the merit of Thy dearest Uoihav Mary, and the inter- 
cession of our holy guardian angels, that none of us may be 
amongst the number of those uncourteous guests who, " beo-au 
all at once to make excuse." '^ 

If one of your equals, nay, one of inferior condition to you 
who has offended and insulted you, were to come to you, and 
earnestly and humbly to implore your pardon; would you re- 
fuse to listen to him, turn your back on him, and shut the 
door in Iris face? If you did so, you would act very wrongly 
and in direct opposition to the Christian law. For Christ our 
Saviour most earnestly and emphatically commands us to return 
good for evil, and instead of seeking revenge, to behave towards 
our worst enemies with meekness, friendliness, and charity nay 
even, as He says in the Gospel of St. Matthew, to be the first to 
ask pardon: -H therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar, and 
there thou remember that thy brother hath anything a-ainst 
thee; leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be 

The Guilt of Deferring Repentance. 


reconciled to thy brother."' Mark those words; you must go 
to him yourself, and at- once, and' leave your offering until you 
are reconciled to your brother. And would it not be far worse 
for you to refuse to lay aside your hatred and enmity against 
one v/hom you have grossly offended, and who now humbly begs 
to be restored to your friendshi])? But if a great lord or prince, 
who is not at all in need of you, who has little to gain from 
your friendship, and nothing to fear from your enmity, and on 
whose favor you depend for your very livelihood; if he, I say, 
after having been offended by you, should, through sheer good- 
ness and pity, either in his own person, or by an authorized 
ambassador, offer you full pardon and for'^riveness, be<i^o-in2- vou 
at the same time to accept his offer at once; would you obsti- 
nately turn your back on him, and say that it does not suit you 
now to regain his friendship, that you do not want it yet, and 
that he must come some other time? Where is the child, with 
the least glimmer of reason, who will not condemn such con- 
duct as most injurious? 

Now, sinner, look at the matter reasonably! Who is He He who in- 
who comes to you, calls and invites you, wishino: to be recon- ^'/^^^^ 

Mix 1X1 /..-,. .^ ^ sjnnertoHis 

ciled to you and to be your friend again? Is He your prince frJendshipis 

and sovereign? Oh, if He were, how you would bow and scrape ^^' 

before Him! you certainly would not remain seated in His 

presence if He came to you; you would not even Avait His cominjr 

but would run out to meet Him, and in every possible way try 

to ingratiate yourself into His favor. But lie is an infinitely 

greater Lord than your prince; before Him all the kings and 

emperors of earth, as well as the poorest beggar and simplest 

peasant, must bend the knee, and humbly beg of Him their 

daily bread. In a word, since we are unable to express His 

might and magnificence, He is the infinitely great God Himself, 

before whose Majesty the angels in heaven, the devils in hell, 

and all creatures on and under the earth tremble with reverence; 

whose calls and invitations even lifeless elements must obey; 

who makes a sign to the stars, and they are ready to do His 

bidding, as the Prophet Baruch says: "lie that sendeth forth 

light, and it goeth; and hath called it, and it obeyeth Him 

with trembling. And the stars have given light in their 

watches, and rejoiced; they were called, and they said-, here 

* si ergo offers munus tuum ad altare, et ibl recordatus fueris, quia frater tuus habet 
aliquid adversum te : reUnque ibi munus tuum ante altare, et vade prius reconciUarl fratri 
tuo.-Matt. V. 23, 24. • , 







T/ze Guilt of Deferring Repentance, 

Who has 
been first 

we are; and with cheerfulness they have shined forth to Him 
that made them. This is our God, and there shall no other be 
accounted of in comparison of Him;" ' who says to the raging 
sea: '' Hitherto thou shalt come, and shalt go no further, and 
here thou shalt break thy swelling waves; " ' .nor dare it in the 
least disobey the voice of its Creator, who ever, according to 
St. Paul, calls to the things that are not. He " calieth those 
things that are not, as those that are; " ' and at the sound of 
His voice creatures come forth out of nothing. This great 
Lord and God deigns to speak to you, man, miserable 
worm of the earth ! He offers you His favor, grace, and friend- 
ship, which you have forfeited forever, and do you still hesitate 
to accept His offer? Is it not yet convenient for you to hearken 
to His invitation? Do you still say to Him: "Go and come 
again, and to-morrow I will give to Thee," * I do not wish to be 
your friend to-day? 

And Avhat has He then done to you ? Has He perhaps hurt 
Offended by or injured you, so that you think you have just reason for 
toe sinner, rejecting His proffered friendship, and deferring to be reconciled 
to Him ? What harm has He done you ? Harm ! What good 
things do you possess that this generous God has not freely 
given you ? Are you not, from the crown of your head to the 
sole of your foot, a proof of His liberality and bounty ? Consider 
everything you have ; from whom have you received it, if not 
from God ? That you are, that you live, that you see, hear, 
feel, walk, stand, sit ; for all that you have to thank Him most 
humbly. What reason, then, have you to be angry with Him any 
longer ? But what am I saying ? Angry with Him ! It is 
God who has first been offended by you ! " Behold," cries out 
St. Gregory in astonishment, " Behold, He Whom we have de- 
spised, calls us."* He it is whose commands you have neglect- 
ed, whose blood you have trampled under foot, whom you have 
time after time offended, insulted, despised, for such a miserable 
thing as your worthless vanity, for a breath of honor, for a 
wretched piece of money, for a brutal lust, for the sake of grat- 

» Qui emlttit lumen, et vadlt ; et vocavJt lllud, et obedit 1111 In tremore. Stellse autem 
dederunt lumen In ctistodils suls, et laetatse sunt ; vocatae sunt, et dlxerunt, adsumus; el. 
luxerunt el cum jucunditate, qui fecit lllas. Hlc est Deus noster, et non sestimabltur al*u"» 
adversus eum.— Baruch HI. .33-30. 

' Usque hue venles,et non precedes ampllus, et hicconfrlnges tumentes fluctus tuo&.— .^Ofl 
zzxvlll. 11. 
, ' Vocat ea, quae non sunt, tamquam ea, quae sunt.— Rom. Iv. 17. 

* Vade et revertere!; eras dabo tibl.— Prov. III. 28. 

• Ecce Ipse quem despexlmus vocat nos.— St. Greg. hom. 43 In E?anflr. 

The Guilt of Deferring Repentance, 39 

ifying your anger and vindictiveness, or of indulging in glut- 
tony °and drunkenness, or for fear of displeasing, or for the 
sake of pleasing men through human respect : " He it is whom 
we have despised ! " And He whom you have treated so insult- 
ingly, and who, tlierefore, has just cause to reject you, to call 
oiU to you in a far different voice, to send down fire from heaven 
on you, to smite you with His thunderbolts, and to call upon 
the demons of hell and all the creatures on earth to take ven- 
geance on you at this very moment. He it is AVho calls you to 
repentance ! He, the great God, who was firstoffended by you, 
(0 ye angels, what did you think of me, when I dared even to 
deliberate with myself as to whether I should offend this great 
God ?) He who has been so often offende(J by you, calls you ! 
(0 angels, still more reason have you to wonder at this! ) He is 
the first to come to you and to invite you to return to Him ! And 
for what object ? What will he do with you ? If you saw at a 
distance a man whom you have treated as shamefully as you have 
your God you would tremble with fear, and try to avoid him, 
and with reason, too, for you would have just cause to fear his 


But your God, whom you have thus offended, comes to you, Andthistoo 
(do not fear, sinner ; do not run away from Him !) not "^erTsiip^ 
to punish and condemn you as you deserve, but to invite you to piiantiy. 
return to His grace and friendship, and that He does with as 
much earnestness and patience, nay, even humility, as if He 
were in need of your favor. He seeks you out in His own per- 
son ; He begs of you to return to Him by His servants, whom 
He has commissioned for that purpose, as St. Paul says: **For 
Christ, tlierefore, wa- are embassadors, God, as it were, exhort- 
ing by us. For Christ we beseech you, be reconciled to God." * 
We beg and implore of you, oh, be converted now to God ! 
He conies Himself and makes the same request of you. What 
else is the meaning of those good inspirations, those salutary 
thoughts ? A^hy else is this lifej a vale of tears ? Why does 
death await you, sinner, and you know not when it will come? 
AVhy must you appear before a most strict judge at the very mo- 
ment after death ? Why is your conscience torn by remorse day 
and night, knowing, as yo^jdo, that you arc in such a miserable 
state that, if death surprised you, you would be hurled into hell? 
What is the meaning of those inefficacious desires by which you 

* Pro Chrlsto erffo lepatione funglmur, tanquam Deo exhortante per nos. 
pro Christo, recondliaminl Deo.- II. Cor. v. 30. 


;.^ ^^^ «.-.>- ^^■^. ^ jfB ifi |- 1 r 


The Guilt of Deferring Repeiitance. 

wisli to be like the good and pious, and to enjoy peace of con- 
science? What is all this, but the voice of God calling on you to 
repent ? '' Behold I stand at the gate, and knock; if any man 
shall hear My voice, and ojjen to Me the door, I will come in to 
him. " ' As llupert remarks on those words, is not that to stand 
at the door, like a beggar wlio asks an alms of a rich man? ' You 
know, my dear brethren, how a poor man acts at the door of a 
rich miser. He knocks and begs for a piece of bread; but he has 
to ask tvvo or three times before he gets an answer. Does the poor 
man go away then? Oh, no; he remains at the door, and cries 
out, in more imploring tones, "give me a piece of bread, for God's 
sake! '' And at last he gets the usual pitiless answer: '^ I have 
nothing for you." AVhat does he do then? lie does not vet des- 
pair; iie repeats his request, and although he has been told that 
there is nothing for him, he still waits and hopes that his very 
importunity will gain for him what he could not get through 
Christian charity. In the same way does the merciful God act 
at the door of the sinner's heart. He knocks over and over 
again, and although He gets no answer. He does not turn away. 
" I called,-! stretched out My hand; " ' I am still calling and en- 
treating you! And what wilt Thou have/o my God? Be rec- 
onciled to Me; give Me back your heart, which you have with- 
drawn from Me, and fixed upon creatures; lay aside the hatred 
and anger with which you have hitherto persecuted Me, although 
I have never done anything to injure you. I am quite ready to 
forgive all you have done against Me, if you will only cease de- 
spising Me. Even if your sins outnumber the hairs of your 
head, "return to Me, and I will receive thee."* Do not let 
shame or fear of the deformity of your sins keep you bac^J^ 
know well what vou have done. " Thou hast prostituted thvself 
to many lovers. " * " Nevertheless, return to Me, and I will re- 
ceive thee; " I will forget all the insults you have offered Me, 
and will no longer remember your sins. " Therefore, at the 
least from this time, call to Me, "Thou art my father, " " and 
you shall be ^My dearest child, and I shall be to you as before, 
full of fatherly love and kindness, for I wish to have you with 

• Ecce, sto ad ostium et pulso ; si quis audierit vocem meain, et aperuerlt mibl Januam, 
Intrabo ad ilium.— Apoc. ili. 20. 

' lUud simile est stanti ad ostium cujusdam divitis, et roganti.— Rupert 1. 2, In Apoc. 

• Vocavi, extendi manum meam.— Prov. i. "24. 

• Revertere ad me, et ejro suscipium te.— Jerera. Hi. 1. 

• Fomicata es cum amatoribus multis.— Ibid. 

• Ergo saltern amodo voca me. Pater meus.— Ibid. 4. 

The Guilt of Deferring Repentance, 


Me in heaven. "Wilt thou be angry forever, (?r wilt thou con- 
tinue unto the end? " ' 

my Lord and my God! what dost Thou say? Would it ^„f^^^ 
not satisfy Thy goodness, would it not be even too great a favor on the part 
to me, wicked sinner tliat I am, if Thou wert graciously to per- ^^ ^^• 
mit me to ajiproach Thee in all humility, in order to implore 
Thy pardon? I have sinned, not Thou! I have offended Thee, 
not Thou me! And ,yet Thou art the first to come and ask me 
for my friendship! Yes, my dear brethren, so great is His love, 
so burning His desire to pardon sinners; and therefore, in the 
Parables, He represents Himself to us sometimes as a shepherd 
who seeks the lost sheep over mountain and valley, through 
thistles and thorns, running after it with bleeding feet, and 
when He has found it^ enticing it in the most loving manner to 
come to Him, and then bringing it back to the fold of Ilis^slect 
sheep with great rejoicing; and again, as a father, running out 
to meet his returning prodigal son, who has sqnandei-ed away all 
his spiritual graces and gifts by leading a sensual and wicked 
life, and when He sees him afar off, naked and hunorrv, falling on 
liis neck, embracing him as if he were his dearest child, and 
celebrating his return by inviting all his friends and neighbors 
to a feast. 

Wonderful goodness and mercy of my God! Thou, Lord, ^^'^'''^ '*^"- 
art wonderful in all Thy works! The seraphim and all the "tl^^T' 
heavenly spirits stand before Thy throne and veil their faces, admired, 
because they cannot bear the splendor of Thy divine Majesty, 
nor fathom the depth of Thy infinite perfections; but there is 
nothing surprises me so much as this goodness and mercy of 
Thine! When I have once understood that Thou art necessarily 
the true God, that Thou art not subject to change, and that Thy 
greatness is incapable of increase, it is not difficult for me to see 
that Thou must be present in all places; when I have learned by 
faith that Tliy wisdom is infinite, I anUftot surprised that in one 
glance Thou seest all tilings, present, past, and future; when 1 
have been taught to adore Thy infinite power, tluit nothing can 
withstand. I am not astonished to heax that, by a mere act of 
Thy will, the mere breath of Thy lips. Thou hast created out of 
nothing the heavens and the earth, with all they contain. I 
tremble with fear at Thy strict justice, according to wlrich Thou 
hast not spared even the angels, and hurlest into a lake of fire 
among the demons, to burn there forever, away from Thy face, 
' Numquid irasceris in perpetuum, aut per&everabis In nnem ?— Jerem. ill. 5. 




The Guilt of Deferring Repentance. 

Hence it is 
an incon- 
on the part 
o^ the sin- 
ner to defer 
the divine 

the soul purchased by the Blood of Thy only Son, on acccunt of 
its having consented to a sii>gle, momentuj-y thought against 
Thy law; yet even that I can easily understand, when I consider 
the infinite greatness of Thy Majesty, wortliy of all honor and 
]ove, which is insulted most grossly by every sin, and the 
obstinacy and inconceivable wickedness of the sinner who, in 
spite of Thee, wilfully and deliberately transgresses Thy well- 
known law for some worthless thing. But the more I know of 
Thy gi-eatness, the more vividly faith represents to me Thy in- 
finite perfections, the more, too, does my astonishment increase 
when I hear, read, and experience that Thou, God, goest after 
a mere mortal; that Thou, a God of such greatness, so patiently, 
BO forgivingly, so humbly goest in search of, and callest out after, 
and offerest pardon to, and most earnestly implorest to return to 
Thee, a poor miserable worm of the eai-th, of whom Thou art 
not at alUn need, whose everlasting damnation would not in the 
least interfere with Thy infinite happiness, and by whom Thou 
hast first been offended; and this Thou askest of him as if it 
were a great and necessary favor to Thyself ! The more I ad- 
mire and praise this goodness and mercy of Thine, the more I, a 
poor miserable sinner, am in need of them, the less can I under- 
stand or fathom them. In this matter I must surrender my under- 
standing, and confess with Thy servant, St. Lawrence Justinian, 
that, " he who tries to investigate the ineffable wealth of the 
divine mercy, must be overwhelmed by the very effort."* 

And yet there is another thing, which possibly is still more to 
be wondered at; to me, indeed, it would seem incredible, nay, im- 
possible, if experience did not prove it to be true, and that is, 
that the man whom Thou, great God, seekest, invitest, and 
implorest to retui-n to Thee, will not come at once, disdains to 
hear Thy loving invitation, turns his back on Thee, and shuts the 
door in Thy face. Come some other time, he says to Thee, as if 
he were speaking to a beggar; I have nothing for Thee now; I 
know well, God, what Thou wishest me to do; Thy desire is 
that I should abstain from sin; but it does not "suit me to gratify 
Thy desire now; some other time, perhaps, I may do so, after 
having committed still more sin. Thy desire is that I should do 
penance and repent of my sins; but I will not do it now; later 
on I will see what I can do in that way. Thou implorest and 
entreatest me to grant Thy request; but I prefer not to listen to 

» Qulsquis domlniae miseratlonls Ineflabllis voluerlt Investlprare divltlas, omnlno in ipsa 
inquisitione succumbet. 

The Guilt of Deferring Repentance. 43 

Thee now; at some future time I may do so. Thou offerest me 
pardon, grace and favor, fatherly love, and Thy eternal kingdom 
of heaven; but I do not desire Thy -favors now; come some 
other time. insolence ! what words can I find to express thy 
malice! patience of my God, who bears to be thus ill-treated 
by a lump of earth, and bears it in silence. Thy goodness sur- 
passes my understanding! sinner, how can you turn away 
your God so discourteously? Do you not (and if you have a 
spark of decency left, you ought to consider this attentively) 
act with the greatest discourtesy towards your sovereign Lord? 
Do you not treat Him as you would some worthless man, who 
has neither power nor authority, and who is dependent on 
your favor for the very means of livelihood? And yet it is for 
your own interest, and not for His, that you should at once be 
freed from the miserable state of sin, from the imminent danger 
of eternal damnation. Have you any reason for continuing to 
offend your Lord and your God? Is it right and just for you to 
do so? Will you still sing the same old tune: I will do penance, 
but not now. some other time; I will be converted, but not at 
once; I will abandon sin and amend my life, but not immedi- 
ately? Do you, I ask again, do you intend to give no other 
answer to your God when He calls you? 

Then, if so, listen to what I am now going to say, and learn '*°***° ^^ 
from it how grossly unjust your conduct is: I use the argument Sd'^Him 
of St. Bernard. If you are determined to go on sinning, you ^^^^ whom 
either believe that God will forgive you later on, or you do not Jor^^'v^n^ 
believe it. In the latter case, what madness it is for you, if you afterwards, 
have any hope for escaping hell and going to heaven, not to be 
converted at once, since God now so generously offers to foi-give 
you! What folly, to defer penance to a time when, as you main- 
tain, you will have no grace to expect! But if you believe, as 
you pretend, and I know not on what grounds, that, in spite of 
your having offended Him for such a long time, God will yet 
pardon you, what an injustice it is, what unpardonable inso- 
lence, what diabolical malice on your part, to find an occasion for 
further sin in the very fact that should make you at once begin 
to love God above all things with your whole heart! Will you 
then continue to offend Him who has borne with you so long 
and so patiently, who is so mercifully willing to receive you 
agam into His friendship, and to make you eternally happy 
with Himself in heaven? 
And besides, is it not most unjust for you to steal away from ^"^o«^ ' 



The Guilt of Deferring Repentance. 

The Guilt of Deferring Repentance. 


is not sure 
of the 

And even If 
the future 
were jer 


! : i 

God the present time, wliich is the only time you are certain of, 
and which yon arc l)oiind bv countless titles to devote to His 
service, and to put llim' oil witli the promise of a future, of 
which you are not certain of liaving a single moment at your 
disposal? You say that you will serve God hereafter; but who 
has told yon that you will be alive then? And if you are not 
sure of the years, months, weeks, and days that are to come, 
why do you reserve them for the service of God, to whom you 
are bound to devote every moment of your lii'e? Are you not 
simply trying to deceive the Almighty? does not your conduct 
show that you have not an earnest desire of heaven? In fact, 
you are paying with ready money the devil, who should not 
have the least claim on you, while you put off to an indefinite 
period the payment of the debt you owe^ to God, to whom every, 
thing you have belongs. 

Bnt even supposing you were certain of the future, you still 
act most unjustly to God by intending to give Him only the 
tain, he will remnant of a vicious life. You will do penance, be converted, 
not leave off amend your life, and serve God; but not until you have satisfied 

sinning till *^ ' "^ . . 

heistii-edof to the full your evil inclinations and sensual appetites. Then 
**• you give to God the time that you have left after having served 

the devil. Y^our soul was consecrated in holy Baptism as the 
temple and dwelling place of God, and you will allow Him to 
enter it only after the devil has occupied it for many years, and 
defiled it with all sorts of abominations? Your whole life should 
be spent in praising and blessing God, and you give the best part 
of it to the devil, while God must be satisfied with the miser- 
able remnant, when you have neither desire, nor power, nor 
opportunity to sin any more? In that way you do not so much 
abandon sin [is sin abandons you, as St. Augustine says: " your 
sins have left you; not you, your sins."* Suppose that two 
people are sitting gambling at night by the light of a candle; 
suddenly the candle goes out and they are obliged to give up 
their game, do they give it up because they do not care to play 
any longer? Not at all, but because thoy have no light; if they 
had another candle they would play away. sinner, amend 
your life; cease offending God, you have insulted Him long 
enough! What is your answer? Oh, I will amend by and by, 
when my appetites are sated, when my youth is passed, when 
old age comes on, when that person is dead or gone away from 
me, when tlie occasion is removed, when sickness comes on and 

» Peccata te dimlserunt, non tu ilia.— S.- Aug. Horn. 41, 

death is at hand; then I will give up sinning and will be con- 
verted and serve God. That is to say, that you will allow the 
torch of your life to be burnt out, and not amend your ways 
until you are on your death bed, when you will have neither 
power nor desire to sin any more; and you will not begin to 
serve God until you are wearied and worn out in the service of 
the devil. 

If Cain was cursed because he selected the worst of his fruits ^^** '®*'"- 
to offer as a sacrifice to God, what sort of a curse will you then on the part 
deserve, man, since you offer to God the worst part of your of the sfu-. 
life? What would you think of a man who would offer a prince °^' 
nothing to eat but soiled bread crumbs, the refuse of meat and 
vegetables, and things of the kind that are given only to the 
dogs? Ah, ray Lord and my God, there are many men who 
treat Thee, if I dare say so, like a dog! They eat the kernel 
themselves and give Thee the shell; the young and tender flesh 
they keep to satisfy their own greed, while the old worthless 
bones are thrown to Thee! The sweet wine of youth is poured 
out as a libation to the devil, while Thou must be satisfied with 
the sour dregs! Ah, far different, Lord, is Thv treatment 
of us! There was not a moment of Thy long eternity in whicli 
Thou didst not think of us and love us! Thy whole life, 0> 
Jesus, was spent for our salvation; all Thy thoughts, words,, 
and actions. Thy passion and death, were for our welfare, and 
Thou hast already prepared an eternal banquet of joys in heaven,, 
as a reward for the small service we can render Thee here! And; 
how do we act towards Thee? If we had an eternity to live on. 
earth, we should in strict justice spend every moment of it in ^ 

loving Thee, nor could we even then make a sufficient return 
for the love Thou hast shown us; and yet, though our lives are 
so short, and so uncertain that we are not sure of even a quarter 
of an hour, we are unwilling to spend any part of them in Thy 
service, except some future years, or it may be days or hours! 

sinners, do you not yet see how unjustly you act when you He has 
refuse to hearken to the voice of God, Who now calls and invites JeS^'^ 
you, and put off your repentance and conversion? Oh, how I fear that 
fear lest His goodness and mercy may soon be turned into stern ^fhTm "^ 
vengeance! He has fixed a certain limit to all our works, as well hereafter, 
as to His own inspirations and graces; perhaps He is calling 
to-day for the last time; perhaps He has determined, if you still 
contmue to despise Him after this exhortation, to deal with you 
as you deal with Him. Hear the threat He utters by the Psal- 




T/ie Guilt of Deferring Repentance^ 

and res- 
olution to 
repent at 


i i 

I I 

mist David: ''They shall return at evening, and shall suffer 
hunger like dogs; " ^ you have treated Me like a dog, you have 
given Me the very worst part of your lives, and have turned Me 
away from your doors like a poor beggar; but the time will 
come when I too shall treat you like dogs; when the evening 
approaches I shall see you chained up like dogs; I shall hear 
your moans and howls and shrieks when the dread of death shall 
be upon you; and what will you have to expect from Me then? 
My special grace and assistance to free you from the state of sin? 
No, they are not for such as you! I will give you the same answer 
that you so often gave Me; go away, I will say, I do not wish to 
give you My grace now, I will behold you suffering the pangs of 
hunger in hell like dogs, and I will rejoice thereat. '* Because I 
called, and you refused; I stretched out My hand, and there 
was none that regarded; " ' '* I also will laugh in your destruction, 
and will mock." "' I have so frequently offered you My grace, but 
you refused it then; I offered you pardon of your sins, but you 
did not accept it; my eternal kingdom, but you had no desire 
for it; and now I, whom you have so despised and ill-treated; 
I, who have before now wept over your miseries ; I, who have 
(^hed My Blood for you; I, who have given My life for you; I^ 
who4iave so often fruitlessly entreated and exhorted you, " I 
also ^'ill laugh in your destruction, and v;ill mock,'' when the 
demons, to whom you are now giving your lives, will carry you, 
body and soul, into hell; I will laugh, when you are howling in 
exterior darkness; 1 will laugh, when you are burning in the 
lake of fire; I will laugh, when you are tortured with an unsup- 
. portable stench; I will laugh, when you are calling upon death, 
that will not come to you for all eternity; I will laugh and will 
mock. merciful Saviour, who didst come to call not the 
just, but sinners, what a bitter laugh is that for Thee! And 
wilt Thou tjien rejoice at our eternal destruction? Certainly, I 
will laugh at'it, ** because I called, and you refused.'' 

But, my good God, I will come to Thee! Behold ri^e 
prostrate at Thy feet, not so much through fear of Thy just anger 
and displeasure, as through love of the goodness andjtnercy>with 
which Thou hast waited for me so long, and called me so often! 
It would be a most shameful thing for me to turn Thee again 
away from my door, and to despise Thy proffered grace! Thou, 

> Convertentur ad vesperam, et famem patlentur ut canes.— Ps. IvlU. 15. 

' Quia Tocavi et renuistis ; extendi raanum meam, et non full qui aspiceret.— Prov. i. 24. 

■ Effo quoque in interltu vestro ridebo et subsannabo. —Ibid. 26. 

The Guilt of Deferring Repentance, 


great God, boldest out Thy hand to me, a poor mortal; shall 

1 still refuse to take it? Thou, Whom I have so often offended, 
desirest reconciliation, shall I then still continue to hate and 
persecute Thee? I, have given so few hours of my life to Thy 
service, but Thou art ready to forget all my ill treatment of 
Thee; shall I not then begin at once to love Thee? Or shall I 
still defer repentance and amendment? Oh, no, my most merci- 
ful God, I will follow the advice of Tliy handmaid Judith, 
"For as much as the Lord is joatient, let us be penitent for this 
same thing, and with many tears let us beg His pardon; " * yes, 

Lord, even because Thou art good, and callest me, will I do 
penance, and I will do it at once. Now I will begin what I 
should have done long ago, to serve Thee with all my strength! 

1 am sincerely sorry that 1 have acted so unjustly to Thee hitherto, 
that I have so grossly offended Thee, my merciful God, that I 
have so often closed my ears to Thy invitations. Never again* 

Lord, will I treat Thee so vilely! From this moment forward 

1 bid adieu to all those people, to all those worldly goods and 
pleasures, that have hitherto kept me from serving Thee! And 
Thou, Jesus, who receivest sinners, receive me too in Thy 
mercy, now that I am filled with sorrow and repentance. Amen. 

Another Introduction to the same sennon for the time of a Jubilee. 


Pro Christo legatione funginmr, fanqnam Deo exhortante per 
nos. Ohsecramus pro Christo, reconciliamini Deo. — II. Cor. v. 

'' For Christ therefore we are ambassadors, God, as it were, 
exhorting by us. For Christ we beseech you, be reconciled to 

When the great God speaks, then certainly must man be ready 
to listen. When the sovereign Lord .desires and asks for any- 
thing by His inspirations, then, indeed, should man at once obey 
and grant His request, especially when* what He asks is for our 
own good. My dear brethren, " for Christ we are ambassadors, 
God as it were exhorting you " by our voice, and we beg and 
implore of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, " be reconciled to 
God." Sinners should make peace with the God whom they 
have offended; that most desirable peace, in which our own con- 
science gives us testimony that we are children of God, now 

P(»t2emS-Jl?dUh"im"l?*' *" ^^ ^^^ poenlteamus, et Indulgentlam ejus fusis lacrymls 

. 1 

! I 

48 The Danger of Defef7'ing Repentance, 

especially, since, by making peace with heaven, we wish to obtain 
that peace among Christian potentates which is so ardently and 
80 generally desired, and to be freed from the greatest of all 
temporal calamities, the sconrge of war. The conditions of this 
peace that we are to make with God are very favorable and ad- 
vantageous to us; and therefore any Christian who does not 
profit by tliem, and* sincerely repent of his sins, must indeed be 
an obdurate and a hopeless sinner. " For Christ we are am- 
bassadors," God exhorting you by our words, and in His name 
we beg of you, '' be reconciled to God; " make peace with Him 
at once! Mark those words; it is God who exhorts you by us; 
it is God who offers to make peace with you; He is the first to 
implore you, as it were suppliantly, to be reconciled to Him. To 
refuse Him, to say to Him, as some do, I will repent, but not 
now, later on, would be a gross and intolerable injury, as I shall 
now show. My Plan of Discourse then is: To desire to make 
peace with God, not now, but at some future time, is most un- 
just towards the good God, who is the first to offer to make 
peace with us. Such is the whole subject of the present ex- 
hortation. God of mercy, grant that there be no sinner so 
hard-hearted, so discourteous, as not to hearken to Thee at once, 
and to do penance! This we beg of Thee, etc. 





The sinner's hope of salvation, when founded on future re- 
pentance, is, if not a thoroughly false hope, at least a treacherous 
one, gen^^ally speaking, and always a presumptuous one; there- 
fore the sinner should do penance at once. — Preached on the 
third Sunday after Peiitecost, 


Gaudium erit coram angelis Dei super uno peccatore pceni- 
ientiam agente. — Luke xv. 10. 

" There shall be joy before the angels of God upon one sinner 
doing penance." 

The Danger of Deferring Repentance, 49 


Last Sunday I showed how unjustly sinners act towards God 
by refusing to hear His calls and by deferring their conversion. 
And now I ask, how is it with themselves? Do they despair of 
salvation? Have they given up all hopes of heaven? If you 
put the question to them, they will all answer: No, God forbid; 
v/e hope to save our souls, and to be happy in heaven. And on 
what do they ground their hopes? On repentance and the 
amendment of their lives? sinners, if that is the case, then 
your hopes rest on the one sure foundation ! Hear what He 
who seeks and receives sinners assures you of, and be consoled: 
*' there shall be joy before the angels of God upon one sinner 
doing penance ! '* Yes, they answer, it is on that assurance I 
depend. Come, then, at once! Do penance; amend your lives ; 
run to your Shepherd, who is stretching out His arms to you I 
Certainly, they say ; but not yet ; later on. Oh ! then I see 
that the foundation of your hoj^es is future penance ? But I 
tell you now, by way of paternal warning, and I shall prove to ( 
you that 

Plan of Discourse. 

The miner's hope of salvation ^ lohen founded on future repent- 
ance, if not a thoroughly false hope, is at least a treacherous one, 
generally speahing, and always a presumptuous one. Such is 
the lohole subject of to-day's exhortation. 

Therefore, do penance and amend your sinful lives at once, if 
you wish to give joy to the angels and to ensure your salvation. 
Such shall be the conclusion. Give us Thy powerful grace there- 
to, merciful Saviour, who receivest sinners: we beg it of Thee 
through tlie intercession of Mary and the holy guardian angels. 

I have still time enough; I am young and strong; I will '"'^^*""®' 
repent by-and-by, confess my sins, and serve God faithfully. Zi^^^ 
Such is the cry of most sinners. You may hear it from bias- ^^^^^ 
phemers and slanderers ; from the impure, tlie unjust, the vin- In'i']^^^ 
dictive ; from drunkards, and from all who are not earnestly on a very 
resolved to give up their accustomed vices. Thus does the hellish ^J^^^"^""* 
nound seek to change the birds he has caught into crows and 
ravens, that always croak out. ''eras! eras!" to-morrow! to- 
morrow! But you, who croak in that way, hear the threat that 
God utters by the Prophet Sophonias. Speaking of -such sinners, 
the Prophet imagines himself to be walking through the streets. 


i I 




Namely, on 
the future, 
of which he 
himself a 


For God can 
deprive him 
of life at 
any mo- 


50 The Danger of Deferring Repeiitance, 

listening to all sorts of birds singing in the different houses, 
when over the door of one house he sees a raven ; unlucky 
house I he cries out; it is all up with you I you will soon fall to 
ruin! " The voice of the singing-bird in the window, the raven 
on the upper post;" and what follows? "I will consume her 
strength." ' I will take away all her strength, so that she shall 
go to ruin. Sinner! says St. Augustine, you are living at ease 
in vice; tliere is a singing-bird in the open window; you are 
often warned and exhorted to do penance and be converted to 
God, and you cry out: Xot now! tome other time! *' eras! 
eras!'' There is the raven's croak over the. door of your heart. 
" I tell you, that, as long as you utter that croak, you are hasten- 
ing to destruction.''" 

For, tell me now, on what do you ground your hopes of sal- 
vation? On the penance, you say, tliat I will do. And when 
will you do it? Oh, by-and-by, you answer. But you have 
said the same thing before, and have often repeated it, and yet 
the time for doing penance seems as far as ever! It will come, 
you say, sooner or later. blind mortal that you are! You 
speak as if you carried the future about in your pocket ! Tell 
me, in God's name, how long have you to live, how much time 
have ydu still left to do penance? Can you say that you 
are sure of a year, a month, a day, nay, even of an hour? 
You know nothing whatever about it, for you dare not contra- 
dict the God of truth, who says to you and to me, ''watch ye 
therefore, because you know not the day nor the hour." " '* Be 
you then also ready; for at what hour you think not, the Son of 
man will come."* Whether you are old or young, weak or 
strong, sick or in good health, you know not whether you have 
a day or an hour of life still left. 

The end of life, says the philosopher Seneca, should always be 
before the eyes of young and old; "for our lives will not be de- 
manded of us, as if they were an interest due at a fixed date."' 
And how then? Let us hear what St. Paul says. "Keep the 
good thing committed to thy trust; " ' be careful of the deposit 
that God has entrusted to your keeping. There is a great dif- 
ference between a deposit, and interest that lias to be paid. The 

• Vox cantantis In fenestra, corrus in superlimlnari ; quoniam attenuabo robur ejus. 
— Sophon. ii. 14. 

2 Ecce tibi dico cum facls vocem corvinam, occurrit tibi ruina.— S. Aug., serm. 164. de 

' Vigllate itaque quia nescitis diem neque horara.— Matt. xxv. 13. 

* Et ?osestote parati, quia qua hora non putatis, Filius hominis veniet.— Luke xil. 40. 

• Non enim citamur ex censu. • Bonum depositum custodl.— II. Tim. 1. 14. 


The Danger of Deferring Repentance. 51 

interest is due at a certain time, before which it cannot be de- 
manded; whereas a deposit has no fixed time, the lawful owner 
can claim it whenever he pleases. This life is not an interest, 
but a deposit, so that there is not an hour in which one can be 
certain that it will not be demanded of him. If it were an in- 
terest, then, sinner, you might say, I am still young and 
strong; my time is not come tc^ /fjay the'in?;ferest an,d to dit^; 'ancjL , ; : , 
you might have some excuse fof 'y«nr- during hdpe tiatf you. will :"?;.• 
do penance hereafter, be reeo^ieiled: to. God, Rnd«a«ieiid your sin-; .^ ^^. . - 
ful life. But since it is a? dc?posit entfu^ied'to y'o^i^'cai^, WM'ek'; V/ f'^ . 
the Lord and Master of life can demand of you in a hundred 
different ways, at His pleasure, without giving you the least 
warning, how can you dare to think and to say, I will repent 
and amend by-and-by, at some future time? If the Lord of your 
life were this night to give power to the demons to strangle you, 
you would not be the first to whom that has happened. If you 
were now suddenly struck dead with a fit of apoplexy, you would 
not be the first to die in that way. If .you were this evening 
to be pierced by a sword as you walk through the streets, or to 
be killed by a chance shot, you would only be the victim of an 
accident that has already caused the death of many who were of 
the same opinion as you are now, and who deferred repentance. 
Do you not see, then, how weak, treacherous, and uncertain is 
the foundation on which you build your hopes of eternal happi- 
ness, namely, the uncertain future time, which is not yours, 
which you cannot dispose of in the least, and which may never 
be for you ? 

And meanwhile you are now actually in that miserable, un- Therefore be 
happy state, in which, if the Lord were to take the deposit away J^and^pre!" 
from you, you are sure of being unhappy with the demons for sumptuons- 
all eternity. Where are your prudence and common-sense? How lfj„^!j?^ 
can you be at ease in that state? Kemarkable is the fable re- 
lated by St. Cyril: A sailor on the high seas was once very 
desirous of coming t^land; he saw far off what he thought to bo 
an island; he made for^ it at once, disembarked, and lit a fire to 
warm himself and to cook some food; but in a few minutes the 
island began to move, and he, thinking that it was on account 
of an earth-quake, betook himself immediately to his ship. But 
when he looked round, he saw the supposed island swimming 
about, and then knew that it was an enormous whale. Enraged 
at being thus deceived, he cried out to it: " Why have you thus 
betrayed me by pretending to be an island?" '* And why," asked 

by a fable. 

! I': 

I ! 


By defer- 
ring pen- 
ance, he 
makes it 

52 The Da7iger of Deferring Repentance. 

the whale in return, '^-did you trust to me, wlio am not fixed to 
any one spot?'' See how foolisJi and presumptuous you are, 
sinner, to trust to a treaclierous future your repentance and 
your eternal haj^uness. The sailor w;;s excusable, because he 
thought the whale was really an island; but you are building on 
what you know very well to be unstable ground that is always 
^ittmg- :^{(w.iiy.. /The siwton l^aajius «hip t6 fly to for refuge; but 
^ you;i Aiili weaches ^y6n=f®i•:c^3ft•aln that, if your foundation once 
.^: \ . I ^ ?>f^ niGVo,, il^^t. j^^' vhcii^th^; lijne of 'life is past for you, 
. '- ?'h\^H "^^'® ^^' Pt^er bH^ifts loft^tVi fiajie eternal ruin. The sailor 
saw before his eyes that which he thoiiglit to be an island, and 
he knew that he could land on it; while you are utterly blind 
as to the future, and know not whether you will ever see it or 
not; and yet you trust to it your eternal life. Can there be any 
greater folly and presumption? 

But suppose that that indefinite future time really arrives, do 
you know that you will then do penance, amend your life, and 

be converted? You know what you have now determined to do; 
^rediffl. |3^^t ^^,}jQ ij^g ^^j^ y^^^ ^j^^^ ^^^^ ^jjj ^^ .^ ^^,j^^^^ ^j^^ ^.^^ comes? 

I now siiy to you, repent of and detest your sins, and abstain 
from them in future. No, you answer, not yet. And why not 
yet? Oh, it is too hard for me now; too difficult altogether to 
give up my love for that creature, to abstain from that pleasure, 
that bad habit. And if that is too difficult now, what will it be 
afterwards, when you will have spent a long time in the indul- 
gence of that foolish love, that sensual passion, that bad habit? 
Is it likely to be easier for you to abstain from it then, than 
now? If you will but use your common-sense in the matter, 
you will see that your difficulty will increase more and more. 

"A long sickness is troublesome to the physician," says the 
Holy Ghost by the wise Ecclesiasticus; " the physician cutteth 
off a short sickness." ' That is to say, a long-continued sickness 
wearies out the physician; while be has no trouble in curing a 
Blight one. The meaning of this is evident. The physician is 
called in all haste to the sick man; as usual he feels his pulse at 
once, and notices a great increase of inward heat. Where do 
you feel the pain? he asks the sick man. Oh, answers the latter, 
over my whole body. This is a serious matter, thinks the other- 
it must be a case of violent fever. When, he asks further, did 
you feel ill first? Yesterday, is the answer; I knew there' was 

» Languor proUxlor gravat medicum; brevem languorem praBcIdlt medlcu8.-Ec«lu8. x. 

Sbown by a 

The Danger of Deferring Repentance. 


something wrong, because I had no appetite for my meals. Oh, 
then, if it is only since yesterday that you are ill, we will soon 
have you all right again. It is well for you that you sent for 
me in time. He is called to another sick person, Avhom he finds 
to be quite worn out, weak, and languid. Oh. he thinks, this is a 
bad sign! How long has he been -ill? he asks those who are in 
attendance. He has now been ill for a long time, is the answer; 
we have tried all sorts of remedies; but nothing has done him 
any good. Ah, my good friends, says the physician then, there 
is no help for him now; he had better make his will, for he will 
never recover. But can you not prescribe something for him? 
Certainly I can, but to what purpose? The disease is an invet- 
erate one; it has eaten into the marrow of his bones; it might 
have been cured if the remedy had been taken in time; but there 
is no chance now; it would take a miracle to save him. See 
how difficult itris to heal an illness of long standing, which, if it 
had been attended to in the beginning, might have been easily 

The Holy Ghost applies all this to the moral maladies of the 
soul. A man commits a mortal sin through natural weakness 
and frailty, or by being careless in a dangerous occasion, or be- 
cause he is overcome by some violent temptation; he commits 
it two or three times, and even oftener. Alas! he is already in 
a dangerous and fatal illness. But what does it take to cure 
him of it? A single thought prompted by his uneasy conscience. 
My God, he says to himself, what have I done! A single good 
inspiration of God or of his holy guardian angel, to remind him 
that he has lost heaven, and deserved hell; the hearing a ser- 
mon in which his conscience is touched, so that he begins to 
think of the wretched state in which he is; any of these remedies 
is quite enough to cure him, to move liim to earnest repentance 
and detestation of his sin, with a firm resolution never to commit 
it again; because his sin has not yet become inveterate, nor 
grown to- a habit. There you have a case in which the cure 
is effected at once by the first remedy that God applies, and 
that the sick person takes without delay. But the sinner who 
continues in vice year after year; the unchaste man who has 
been for a long time wallowing in the filth of his unholy pas- 
sions; the unjust man who has been steadily enriching himself 
by usurious and unlawful practices; the drunkard of long stand- 
ing, accustomed to cursing and swearing; these and such as 
these, who have often confessed their sins, but not amended 


The ordi- 
nary means 
are gener- 
ally of little 
avail with 
an inveter- 
ate sinner. 

As we see 
in the trai- 
tor Judas. 






54 T/ie Dafiger of Deferring Repentance. 

their lives, they have now to return to God by sincere repent- 
ance; they must give up forever their sensual pleasure and 
accustomed vices, and live chastely, justly, soberly, and holily. 
Oh, how troublesome and difficult they will find it! God may 
give them an inspiration, their good angel may speak to their 
hearts, all the preachers in the world may exhort them, but it is 
all to no purpose; their sin is inveterate; it is a disease that has 
for a long time been eating into their vitals; remedies have been 
prescribed and forced on them often enough already; but no 
cure has been effected, for they have lost their power on inveter- 
ate sinners, and if God does not, so to speak, work an evident 
miracle of grace in their behalf, there is no hope for them. 

When has the world ever seen a more experienced physician 
of souls than Our Lord Jesus Christ? How many great sinners 
there were who followed Him, how many whom He sought out 
Himself; and He cured them all! The first word of warning 
He spoke, cured James and John of their ambitious desire to 
have the two first places in His kingdom. The first call He gave 
Matthew, who was then a public sinner, cured him of injustice 
so effectually, that he left all he had and followed Christ. The 
incredulous Thomas was cured by the first touch. A single look 
of His was enough to make Peter weep bitterly for having 
denied Him; and the first inspiration and ray of light that 
Magdalene, a public sinner, received, cured her of the vice of 
impurity. But none of the remedies that He applied to Judas 
was successful; so that the latter died impenitent and despair- 
ing. Whence arose the difference? The malady of the former 
was either recently contracted, or else they at once took the pre- 
scribed remedies, and did penance; Judas, on the contrary, had 
indulged his avaricious desires too long, and his disease had be- 
come inveterate. For, long before he betrayed his Master into 
the hands of his enemies for thirty pieces of silver, he was, as 
the Evangelist says, *'a thief," ' and therefore he murmured at 
the waste of the precious ointment which Magdalene poured 
over Our Lord's head and feet. And what excellent opportuni- 
ties lie had of correcting that vice! He was in daily intercourse 
with Christ, the Son of God, he heard His salutary instructions 
and exhortations, and saw in Him a model of perfect poverty; 
but nothing could induce him to amend his life. How lovingly 
and tenderly Christ spoke to him at tlie Last Supper, through a 
desire of making him enter into himself and repent! Our Lord 

* Fur erat.— John xll. 6. 


The Danger of Deferring Repentance. 55 

even washed and kissed his feet, fed him with His own flesh 
and blood, and said to him publicly, as a salutary warning, " one 
of you is about to betray Me." * The other apostles were very 
much troubled at this, and began to ask Him, *' Is it I Lord? " ' 
Am I the treacherous apostle who is to commit such a crime ? 
Judas alone kept silent, nor was he in the least disturbed, until 
Our Lord at last plainly alluded to him. ^' He that dippeth his 
hand with Me in the dish," He said, ''he shall betray Me. . . . 
but woe to that man by whom the Son of man shall be betrayed." ' 
Better would it have been for that man, if he had never been 
born! At last Judas asked Him: " Is it I Rabbi ?" He saith to 
him: "Thou hast said it;"* you are the man. And yet the 
wicked man thought it too soon to do penance. While he was 
actually accomplishing his treason in the garden of Gethsemani, 
Our Lord kissed him, called him friend and again warned him. 
"Friend, whereto art thou come?"* He said. Who would not 
think that the most hardened heart would have been softened at 
tliese words? But no; they had no effect on the traitor. At 
last, when he saw that Jesus was really condemned to death, 
Judas wished to repent. "Then Judas. . . repenting himself, 
brought back the thirty pieces of silver, saying: 'I have sinned, 
in betraying innocent blood.* " * But his repentance was too late 
to be sincere; *' he went and hanged himself with an halter. " ' 
"Useless, indeed,'' says St. John Chrysostom, *'is the penance 
that is too long deferred ! " 

Now, sinner, what has become of the hopes of salvation that And m the 
you built on the future? Your soul is now dangerously ill. not do pen- 
" Wilt thou be made whole? " * I ask you, as Our Loi*d asked the anoe, at au. 
infirm man in the Gospel. You have a salutary remedy at hand "^ 
in the sacrament of Penance, and vou have been often exhort- 
ed to have recourse to it, but your answer has always been: 
"No, I do not want that remedy yet; it is too severe; I find it too 
hard to free myself from my illness; there is still time; by-and-by 
I will take the remedy, and be cured." But wait till that by-and- 
by comes, and you will find that it will then be too late; for it 
will be far more difficult for you to do penance then, than now. 

* TJnus vestrura me traditurus est.— Matt. xxvi. 21.2 Numquid ego sum, Domine ? -Ibid. 22. 
' Qui lutinj?it meciim manum in apropside, hie me tradet . . . . vae autem homini ilU per 

quem Filius hominis tradetur.— Ibid. 23, 5M. 

* Numquid ego sum, Rabbi ? Ait illi : tu dixisti.— Ibid. 25. 

* Amice, ad quid venisti ?— Ibid. 50. 

* Poenitentla ductus retulit triginta argentes .... dicens : peccavi, tradens sanguinem 
justum.— Matt, xxvii. 3, 4. 

' Abiens, laqueo se suspendlt.— Ibid. 5. 'vis sanus fieri ?— John v. 6, 



u; ': 

I ii 

5 6 The Da 7tger of Deferr ing Repen ta nee. 

And even if, like Judas, you had an inefficacious desire to do pen- 
ance, the justice of God, who will be wearied with waiting for 
you so long, will withhold from you the grace and the oppor- 
tunity of repejiting, of which you have made yourself unwor- 
thy. " Woe to them that are with child, and that give suck in 
those days,'' says Our Lord Jesus Christ. ' Woe to those who 
are always full of inefficacious desires to do good works, and who 
never try to carry those desires into effect! Their good inten- 
tions will all come to naught at last. And such will be the case 
with all those who defer repentance from year to year. The 
Prophet Job says of such people: *• His heart shall be as hard as 
a stone. * lie may in the end try to make his confession; but it 
will be a cold and dead confession, without true supernatural 
sorrow, without a firnr resolution of amendment, and his heart 
will remain as hard as a stone that nothing can soften. 
Shown by In the Book of Exodus God publishes the following law: If a 
H^y^cri°™ Ilebrew was sold as a slave, he should have his liberty at the 
ture. end of six years; but if he was contented with his position, and 

did not wish to be set at liberty, he had to remain a slave all his 
life. " And if the servant shall say: * I love my master and my 
wife and children, I will not go out free;' his master shall bring 
him to the gods, (that is, to the judges and chiefs of the people,) 
and he shall be set to the door and the posts, and he shall bore 
his ear through with an awl ; and ho shall be his servant for- 
ever. '" A strange, and, as it might seem, a useless law; for 
who would be so foolish as to choose slavery in preference to 
freedom? Do you know, sinner, who is guilty of that folly? 
You are> and so are all those who, being in the state of sin, could 
be converted to God by doing penance, and defer doing it. By 
mortal sin you have sold yourself as a bond slave to the devil; 
how long are you now bearing that galling yoke? The good God 
offers you now, as Ho has often done before, the giace to free 
yourself from this slavery, and to regain the glorious freedom of 
His children. He says to you, in the words of St. Paul: " Behold, 
now is the acceptable time, behold, now istneday of salvation;"^ 
return to Me; do penance, and amend your life! But you go on 
refusing the proffered grace; you put off the Almighty to some 

* Vae autem proejmantibus et nutrientibns in illls dlebus.— Matt. xxlv. 19. 

* Cor ejus indurabitur tanquam lapis. — Job xll. 15. 

* Quodsl dixerit servus: diliffo domlnura ineiim, etuxorom ac ]il)ero.s; non effrediar liber; 
offeret eum dominus dlis, et applicabliur ad ostium et testes, perforabitque aurem ejus 
subula; et erlt el senus In saeculum.— Exod. xxl. 5, G. ' 

4 £cce nunc tempus acceptabile, eccc uuac dies salutls.— II. Cor. vl. 2. 

The Danger of Deferring Repentance, 


future time, which will perhaps never come for you. You are 
satisfied with your slavery; you think and say, ''\ love my 
master," I cannot give up that creature, and therefore I do not 
desire freedom. Oh, woe to you! what will become of you? By 
divine permission, your master, the devil, will pierce your ears 
as a sign of perpetual slavery; that is to say, he will make you 
deaf to all good inspirations and exhortations; God will with- 
draw His special graces from you, so that you shall not be able 
to do penance; for repentance will then become so difficult for 
you, that, humanly speaking, it will be an impossibility for you 
to be sincerely converted to God. And, indeed, this is only a just 
punishment for abusing the patience of the Almighty. You do 
not wish to be free? He will say: very well, then; remain in the 
slavery of the devil, and be his slave for all eternity! Such shall 
be the end of the presumptuous hope of eternal salvation that 
you have hitherto based on the future time, saying: *'• I wish to go 
to heaven, and therefore I Vill do penance and amend my life 

But, you think, I hope it will not be so with me. There were useless to- 
many great sinners at all times in the world, and there are afi^^*"^*" , 
•^ o •' toe example 

great many still, who have done just as I am doing, and they of other sin- 
were sincerely converted at last, were received affain bv a morci- °^"^^® 

o ./ were con- 

ful God, and gained eternal happiness. David was guilty of verted at 
adultery and murder, and had the guilt of those sins on his soul ^**'- 
for some years, . before he thought of repentance, and he is now 
in heaven. Manasses was converted after having spent forty-five 
years in idolatry, sacrilege, murder, and tyranny. Magdalene 
was converted after having led, almost from her youth, a luxurious, 
scandalous, and sinful life, and became a saint. Matthew became 
an apostle after having been a usurer. Zachaeus was received 
by Our Lord, after having been a public and notorious sinner, 
guilty of many acts of injustice; and' there are countless ex- 
amples of a similar kind. Why should I have less to hope than 
they had from the infinite mercy of God? At some future 
time I intend to imitate them and to save my soul. And do 
you again base your miserable hope on what happened to 
others? Have you forgotten what I said to you a few minutes 
ago? All the sinners you mention repented at once, as soon as 
they were enlightened by the grace of God, and had their eyes 
opened to their wickedness; they did not, like you, defer repen- 
tance to an indefinite period after having become sensible of the 
miserable state in which they were. 


' 1 

; \ 

; i 
I I 

: I 

• \ 
; t 

;;=ts^t -yj,!^ ■ 



I ii: 


T^e Danger of Deferring Repentance, 

For he 
knows not 
If he wiU 
act like 

Most people 
like him do 
not. Shovni 
by an ex- 

by another 

But supposing even that some great sinners like yourself 
were truly converted, and saved their souls after having deferred 
penance, (although you cannot be certain in any particular case, 
since you cannot see the hearts of the penitents, whether tlieir 
sorrow is sincere and supernatural, or not; it is true that many 
sinners like you go to confession; they all do so during Paschal 
time, if they are Catholics; you have done so too, and perliaps 
more than once a year; but, God help usi what miserable con- 
fessions those are which are not followed by any amendment I) 
still, I say, granted that such sinners were truly converted, have 
you on that account any grounds for believing that the same 
thing will happen to you? Is there anyone who can tell you 
that for certain? 

Another thing, too, you must not forget; for one like you, who 
is converted and saves his soul, there are a hundred who never 
repent sincerely and who are lost forever, because, as they have 
rejected the lights that were bestowed on them, and neglected 
to avail themselves of the opportunities of grace given them, so, 
by a just judgment of God, they are afterwards deprived of those 
lights and opportunities. Henry Grau writes of a usurer who 
was often tortured by remorse of conscience on account of his 
wicked and un-Cliristian mode of life, and was repeatedly ex- 
horted by others to give it up, but he used always to say, like 
you: "Certainly, I will give it up, and do penance, for I am not 
so foolish as to lose my soul for the sake of temporal things; I 
will amend, but not now; by-and-by, some other time, I shall 
have a better opportunity; there is no danger yet. etc." He fell 
sick; a zealous priest warned him of his state, and exhorted him 
to do penance and make restitution. But where was his " by- 
and-by '' then? After remaining speecliless for a long time, he 
at last cried out, in a loud voice: '* penance, where art thou? 
I cannot repent now, because, when I might have done so, I 
refused."' And having said these words, he breathed his last. 

There is a well-known incident related in the "History of 
Treves" of a certain commandant, who heard in a dream, on three 
successive nights, the words: "you will die during the siege. "' 
As he saw no sign whatever of a siege, he tried to put the mat- 
ter out of his head; but in spite of himself he felt uneasy, so he 
resolved to make a general confession of his whole life, and he 

> O poenltentia, ubi es ? De csetero poenlterc non valeo, quia dum facere poenltentlam 
potul, nolui. 
2 Moiieris in obsidlone. 

The Danger of Deferring Repentance. 59 

actually wrote down his sins with the greatest exactness. When 
on his way to one of our houses, to make his confession to the 
then rector. Father Duraeus, a certain woman of his acquaint- 
ance nodded to him from her window, and invited him in (alas! 
what snares the devil knows how to lay for souls). Not wishing 
to appear uncourteous, the officer accepted the invitation, and 
went into the house, thinking that he would have time enough 
afterwards to make his confession. He remained in the house 
for some hours, when suddenly an alarm was raised in the street 
that the enemy was attacking the town. He rushed out, and 
mounted his horse in order to prepare to defend the place, but 
as he was busily engaged on the ramparts, he was hit by a stray 
bullet and killed on the spot. Unhappy, eternally unhappy 
man! If you had kept out of that house a few hours before, 
and had made your confession as you intended, you would have 
saved your soul! But, alas, with that " by-and-by " of j^ours, 
short a time as it was in coming, you ruined yourself forever. 

Sinner, wliat do you think of this? May not the penance c'onciusion 
that you intend to do ^'by-and-by, " be frustrated in the same tation to do 
manner? what will it then avail you to indulge a foolish hope P<?Daiice at 
built on such a treacherous foundation, in a matter that con- °"^' 
cerns your eternal bliss, or eternal misery? It may be that 
many great sinners like yourself were afterwards converted and 
saved their souls; but what better will you be for that, if you 
are amongst the far greater number of those who were deluded 
by their presumptuous hopes, and are now burning in hell with- 
out hope of release? think well over this matter now, for it is 
one that deserves your most careful consideration. Say to 
yourself: "I am now in the state of sin, and if God were to de- 
mand my life from me, as He may do at any moment, I should 
certainly be lost forever; He now, in His goodness, offers me 
His grace and invites me to do sincere penance, to amend my 
life, and to make sure of my eternal salvation. What may 
happen "by-and-by" I know not, nor do I know whether 
there will be a "by-and-by" for me, or whether I shall then do 
penance, or not. I certainly do not wish to go to hell for all 
eternity; my great desire is to be happy with God in heaven; 
therefore I must not, I cannot, I will not wait any longer, but 
will at once make use of the means that Jesus Christ now offers 
me to regain entrance into the fold of His chosen sheep." And 
what is that? "My sheep hear My voice,"' says tlie good 
* Oves mesB vocem meam audlunt.— John x. 27. 



»i Hi 


60 The Difficulty of Correct i7ig Bad Habits, 

Shepherd. But wlien do they hear it? At all times, as often as 
He calls. And now I hear Him crying out: ** To-day, if you 
shall hear His voice, harden not your hearts." ' To day God is 
calling on me to he converted to Him and to abandon my wicked 
life; therefore this very day I will liearken to Him, I will repent 
of my sins, confess them candidly^ and make a firm resolution 
never to commit them again. If I do this, I may have a sure and 
well-grounded hope that the angels in heaven will rejoice over 
me, and that I shall hereafter rejoice with them for all eternity. 
Sinners, say with me, with all your hearts, so shall it be. Amen. 

On Drferring Repentance till the hour of deaths see tliefolloiv- 
ing Fifth Part. 




The stone of sinful habits must be rolled away from the heart 
at once, for the longer one waits, the greater will be the diffi- 
culty of removing it, until it eventually becomes an impossi- 
bility. — Preached 07i Easter Sunday. 


Quis revolvet nobis lapidcm ah ostio momimejiti? — Mark xvi. 3. 
" Who shall roll us back the stone from the door ol the sep- 


The greater the desire of these holy women to behold and 
to anoint, the dead body of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the greater 
was their anxiety lest they should not be able to carry out 
their intention, for the grave was covered with a huge stone; and 
therefore they asked each other, '* who shall roll us back the 
stone from the door of the sepulchre ? " We poor weak women 
have not the strength to do it. Nevertheless, they went on their 
way, determined to do their best. It is a difficulty of this kind, 
my dear brethren, that deters most sinners from doing sincere 

» Hodle, si vocem ejus audleritls, nollte obdurare corda vestra.— Ps. xclv. 8. 

The Difficulty of Correcting Bad Habits. \^ 6 1 

penance, and being really reconciled to God. I say sincere 
penance, and being r.eallif reconciled to God; for in the ordinary 
confessions, especially at Easter, when every Catholic is bound 
to go, oh, what a lot of dissimulation there is! And how many 
there are who leave the confessional worse than they were when 
they entered it, because they have not a firm purpose of amend- 
ment! And that too, because they are shut up in a grave of 
sin by a huge stone that they are afraid to attempt to roll away. 
The inveterate habit of a certain vice, which they find it too 
difficult to give up all at once; an unlawful intimac}^ which 
they imagine they cannot live without; the proximate occasion 
of sin, which they do not wish to abandon; this is the stone 
that lies on their hearts and that they think it impossible to 
rei?iove. And therefore they often ask themselves, in their in- 
efficacious desires, ''who shall roll us back the stone?" who 
will free me at last from this occasion, this intimacv, this in vet* 
erate habit .^ To these I now say: Sinners! attack the stone at 
once, and courageously. God will help you with His grace to 
remove it now! But if you defer your repentance and amend- 
ment, it will be, humanly speaking, impossible for you to remove 
it, so that you will have little hope left of saving your souls, as 
I shall now prove. 

Plan of Discourse. 

Tlie stone of sinful intimacy and had habit must be at once 
removed from the heart; for the longer one tuaits, the greater will 
be the difficulty of removing it, tmtil at length it beco?nes an im- 
possibility. Such is the lohole subject of my exhortation. ■ 

Those who have during this Paschal time been truly recon- 
ciled to God, will be strengthened, by what I am about to say, in 
their good resolution never to go back to their former bad habits 
and sinful intimacies. Almighty and merciful God! through 
the powerful intercession of Thy most Blessed Mother Mary and 
of the holy angels, we beg of Thee to give Thy precious grace to 
the just, that they may persevere in Thy friendship, and to 
smners, that they may this day roll away the stone from their 
hearts and free themselves completely from the grave of sin. 

I have undertaken to persuade you to do a very difficult it is very 
thing, and when I consider the. matter again, I am almost ^^^rd to get 
tempted to give it up as hopeless. For I am afraid it will be Zul "^ "^ 
with me as it was with Lot, when he tried to persuade his two 
«ons-in-law to leave the doomed city, Sodom. '^ Arise/' he said 


62 The Difficulty of Correcting Bad Habits, 

to them, "get you out of this pluce, because the Lord will de- 
stroy this city. And he seemed to them to speak as it were in 
jest/' * So hard, as the Glossa remarks, did they find it to leave 
the city in which they had been born and brought up. Ah! far 
more readily would I undertake to move a huge mass of stone, 
than to roll away tlie stone of sinful habit from the hearts of 
some sinners by preaching. ** So tyrannical a thing is habit," 
says St. John Chrysostom; * so hard and difficult it is to leave all 
at once that which for a long time has occupied our hearts and 
affections! And what else can it be but a matter of the greatest 
difficulty for the proud man, who has hitherto been given to 
every worldly vanity, all at once to become lowly in his own 
eyes, modest, and humble? For the avaricious man, who has 
amassed wealth unjustly, to deprive himself of it by making the 
necessarv restitution, and to close his heart and its desires to 
riches and temporal goods? For the unchaste man, who has 
hitherto given loose rein to his inordinate desires, or who has 
fostered an impure attachment for some creature, to resolve 
never to give way again wilfully to a sinful thought even, and 
to abandon forever tlie object of his sinful love? For him who 
is addicted to cursing and swearing, to cut off that bad habit at 
once? For him who wastes his time in drinking and gambling, 
and in the sins that are occasioned thereby, to live a temperate 
and sober life, and to spend his time in serving God with dili- 
gence? For one whose heart has hitherto been filled with 
hatred, enmity, and secret ill will, to change all at once, to be 
sincerelv reconciled to his enemv, and to love him as himself? 
In a word, must it not be difficult for one whose thoughts were 
sunk in the depths of hell, to raise them all at once to the 
heights of heaven, and to begin to lead a Christian, holy, and 
heavenlv life? There is no doubt that that is a most difficult 
task; it is one which requires great labor and great skill. 
Shown from What reason had the Jews to weep and sigh for the flesh-pots 
^y np- ^^ Egypt, .as we read in the Book of Exodus: "And all the con- 
gregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and 
Aaron in the wilderness," and said to them: *' Would to God we 
had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when 
we sat over the flesh-pots, and ate bread to the full!'" What 

» Surirlte. epredirnlnl de loco Isto. quia deleblt Domlniis civitatem banc. Et vlsus est eis 
quasi ludens loqui.— Gen. xix- U. - Adeo tyrannica res consuetudo. 

' Et murmuravit omnis congregatio flliorum Israel contra Moysen et Aaron In solitu- 
dlne ; utinam niortul esseraus per manum Domini in terra iEgypti, quando sedebamus super 
Ollas camium, et comedebamus panem in saturltate.— Exod, xvl. 2, 8. 

The Difficulty of Correcting Bad Habits. ^^ 

reason, I ask, had they to give expression to such regrets, since 
their enjoyment of the flesh-pots of Egypt was earned only by 
hard labor under the merciless yoke of Pharao? And they 
sighed for the bread of slavery at the very time when God was 
leading them toward the promised land, and was feeding them 
miraculously with the heaven-sent manna ! Were they not very 
foolish thus to long for the coarse food of slavery? St. John 
Chi^sostom assigns a reason for this; ^'the Jews," he says,' 
'* longed for the garlic of Egypt, although they had the manna, 
on account of the influence of habit. Such a tyrannical thing is 
habit." ' So difficult is it to give up what one has become accus- 
tomed to. Is it then useless for me, sinners, to speak to you 
of the bread of heaven, when you have been once accustomed to 
the flesh-pots of the world? For even tlie Prophet Jeremias 
despaired in this matter. " If the Ethiopian can change his 
skin, or the leopard his spots, you also may do well, when you 
have learned evil."' Alas! who will roll us back the stone? 
Who will remove that heavy weight from our hearts? . 

But wliat am I saying? I wish to persuade you to lay aside Therefore 
your sinful habits, and I represent to you in the very beginning, "e^i^j^^'ag^e 
incautiously enough, that you will have an almost insurmount- at once, 
able difficulty in doing so! Instead of making your task easier 
by talking to you of the sweetness of repentance, I make it hard . 
and bitter, and almost impossible! Is not that mode of proceed- 
ing likely to deprive you of all heart and courage for repentance, 
and to harden you still more in sin, by driving you to despair? 
No, sinners! For the very fact of the difficulty of repent- 
ance, a fact that your own experience teaches you, must serve 
me as the only weapon that I intend using in order to conquer 
your understanding, and to convince you that you must at once, 
without delay, use every effort, and spare neither labor nor 
trouble, to roll away this stone, that is, to amend and abandon 
your sinful habits. For, tell me, do you intend to go to heav- 
en or not? If the latter is the case, I have done with you, and 
there is no use in your hearing a sermon. But you say, God 
forbid! we certainly hope and desire to gain heaven, and to be 
eternally happy. Very good! But answer me this question: 
do you think you can save your souls, with that heavy stone on 
your heart, that shuts you up in the grave, in the state of sin.? 

J Judiel manna imbentes. quserebant allia Ej?ypU, propter consuetudinem. Adeo tyran- 
nic-a res consuetudo est.-S. Cbysost. Horn. 7. in Ep. i. ad Cor. 

- Si mntare potest JJthioDs pellem suam, aut pardus varietateg suas; et vos poterltls 
uenefacerc, cum didicerltis aialum.-Jerem. xlil. 28. 

64 The Diffic7ilty of Correcting Bad Habits. 

Xo, you say, we are not so ignorant as that; no one who is in the 
state of mortal sin can go to lieaven; he must first be converted, 
do penance, and amend his life. Do you think, then, that you 
will one day repent and amend? Certainly; some day or other 
we will return what we have unjustly acquired, leave the proxi- 
mate occasion of sin, make peace with our enemies, and give up 
vice. That is all I want for my purpose; now I have fast hold 
of you, provided only that you are willing to acknowledge the 
truth and to act accordingly. 
Bocanvit Xow, Avhen do you intend to carry this resolution of yours into 
mucrmore effect? Not yet, you say; it is too difficult now. And when* 
difflcuitto then? Some other time, in a year, or a few months perhaps. 
i't^,^rfar -^"^^ ^^ y^^^ believe that it will be easier for you to abandon your 
aaGodis sinful habit and do penance in a few years or months, than it is 
concerned, ^^^^^p rpj^-^ -^ ^j^^ fearful trap by which the crafty tempter en- 
snares most sinners to eternal destruction; they fondly imagine 
that it will be easier for them to repent at some future time, Jie- 
cause they know very well that repentance is necessary to salva- 
tion. But you may be quite certain that it will be far more 
difficult for you afterwards, than it is now. True, it will never 
be absolutely impossible for you to repent; yet, the longer you 
wait, the more months, weeks, days, nay hours, you spend in sin, 
the more troublesome will repentance become, until at last it 
will be, humanly speaking, impossible. And in the first place, 
this must appear clear enough when we consider the Almighty 
God. You acknowledge, sinner, that you cannot free your- 
self from sin by your own natural strength alone, and that you 
never would do so unless God impelled you thereto by His grace. 
If you did not know this before, learn it now; it is an article of 
faith, and there can be no doubt about it. It is true that the 
good God never refuses to any one in this life, who is capable of, the grace by which he may be enabled to be con- 
verted and do penance; but the grace that is called efficacious, 
that is, 'the grace that God foresees man will really co-operate 
with. He is not bound to give to any one, and He bestows it as 
a special act of goodness and beneficence on whomsoever and 
at whatsoever time He pleases. Such is the general teaching 
of theologians. Again, the more wicked a sinner is, the longer 
he continues in sin, and the deeper evil habits have become 
rooted in his heart, so also the greater and more powerful, and, 
so to speak, even miraculous, must be the grace which will enable 
him to be truly converted. Our Divine Lord, as St. Augustine 

The Difficulty of Correcting Bad Habits > 65 

remarks, teaches us that in the three people whom He raised from 
the dead, when raising the daughter of Jairus, He merely 
said: ^'Damsel, arise.'" It cost Him, as it were, more trouble 
to raise the young man of Nairn, who was being carried to 
the grave: "He came near and touched the bier;"'* and He 
commanded him: "Young man, I say to thee, arise/' ' But 
what labor it cost Him to raise Lazarus, whose body had al- 
ready begun to decay in the grave! "He groaned in the spirit 
and troubled Himself;"* as St. John says in the Gospel. And 
Jesus wept. '* "Jesus, therefore, again groaning in Himself, com- . 
eth to the sepulchre. " ' And when He had caused the stone to 
be taken away from the sepulchre, He immediately began to pray: 
"Jesus, lifting up His eyes, said: Father, I give Thee thanks that 
Thou hast heard Me." ' Finally, "He cried with a loud voice: 
Lazarus, come forth. "^ What was the reason of the difference 
in Our Lord's mode of proceeding in those three cases, my dear 
brethren? Had the almighty power of the Son of God greater 
trouble in raising one than the other from the dead? That can- 
not be; for to will and to accomplish are one and the same thing 
to Him. Christ, sa3^s St. Augustine, wished to show thereby 
that it is far more difficult, and requires a much more powerful 
grace, to convert one who has been buried for a long time in the 
grace of evil habits, than one who has sinned only now and then, 
or who has remained in sin only occasionally for a month or two 
even during the space of several years. 

Tell me now, man, do you imagine that this special, pow- "^bo wiu 
e'rful, and extraordinary grace, that God is bound to give to no gp^^^^ 
one, will be given to you, when in some years' time you wish to graces here- 
amend your evil ways? How do you know that? You have never ^^^' 
heard of a grace of that kind having been promised to any one, 
much less to yourself. But you say, perhaps it will be given to 
you? And perhaps, indeed, in all probability, it will not. For, 
to look at the matter reasonably, do you think that your continu- 
ing to'offend Him is a likely way to induce the Almighty to 
bestow on you a special mark of His power? Is it probable that 
you willobtain extraordinary graces from Him, when, by offering 
Him insult upon insult, you make Him more and more your 

» Puella surge.— Mark v. 41. 2 Accessit et tetiglt loculum.— Luke vil. 14. i 

" Adolescens, tibl dico, surge.— Ibfd. 

• Inf remult spirliu et turbavit seipsum — John xl. .3.3. « Et lacrymatus est Jesus.— Ibid. 35. 

• Rursnm fremens in semetipso venlt ad monumentum.— Ibid. 38. 

1 Jesus autem elevatis sursum oculis dixit : Pater gratias ago tibi, quoniara audisti me.— 
Ibid. 41. 

• Voce magna clamavit : Laaare, Teui toi"as.— Ibla. 43. 

66 The Difficulty of Correcting Bad Habits. 

enemy? when you despise the grace He now oiTers yon, and do 
not hesitate to say to His very face: No, God, I do not uant 
Thy grace now; some other time it will be more convenient for 
mo to accept it; Tiioii canst help m^ in a few years, after I have 
caused Thee still more displeasure; then Tliou canst give mo 
grace, and still more powerful grace, too. Alas, poor mortal, 
who are you to dare so presumptuously to dictate to the Al- 
mighty God, and to prescribe a mode of action to His goodness? 
Do you til ink that God will wait upon you, as if He were your 
servant, and that Ho will do whatever you tell Him? Must he 
give you wonderful graces, that He denies to many a pious soul, 
and that, too, after you have continued still longer to insult Him? 
Butw:ii Be careful, I beg of you I It is not safe thus to insult and 

^^net""'^^ mock a great lord. God will allow you to go on for a time, and 
will bear with you most patiently, but instead of giving you a 
special grace. He (and how could it be otherwise?) will deliver 
you up to your evil inclinations, and will allow you to become 
more and more entangled in the meshes of your sinful habits. 
Hear the threat He utters by the prophet Isaias: '* Woe to thee 
.... that despisest, shalt not thyself also be despised? .... 
when being wearied tliou shalt cease to despise, thou shalt be 
despised."' '*' I called and you refused," He will say; "I 
stretched out 3Iy hand, and there was none that regarded." " I 
called you last year, or last month, and exhorted you to return 
to Me, but you would not; I stretched forth My hand to raise 
you up from the state of sin, but you did not deign even to look 
at Me; '' I also Avill laugh in your destruction, and will mock."' 
Oh, what a terrible threat, says St. Augustine. Sin away then, 
if yon are bent on doing so, but remember that '' the time will 
come when the sinner will wish to repent, and will not be able, 
because, when he might have repented, he refused to do so." * 
It is one thing for the sinner who falls through mere frailty, 
even a hundred times, and remains in the state of sin for a cer- 
tain len^fh of time, to find mercv from God: but a far different 
thin^ for him to find the same mercv, Avho makes a habit of 
sinning, and wilfully and obstinately perseveres in sin. The 
former occurs frequently; the latter very seldom. The same 

» Vje qui spernls, nonne et ipse sperneris ? Cum fatlgatus desierls contemnere, contem- 
neris. — Is. xxxlii. 1. 

2 Vocavi et renuistls ; extendi mannm meam, et non fuit qui aspiceret.— Prov. 1. 24. 

' Ego quoque in interitu vestro ridebo, et subsannabo. — Ibid. 26. 

« Veuit tempus quando peccator veUt pcenitere, et non poterit, quia, quando potuit, 
nolult.— S. Au^. serm. 58. de temp. 

The Difficulty of Correcting Bad Habifs. 67 

God who forgave the Ninivites, because, Ti^ithout waiting for the 
expiration of the forty days, they at once did penance for their 
sins in sackcloth and ashes, destroyed the whole world by a 
deluge, because in those days men did not hearken to oft re- 
peated exhortations to repent, and refused to abandon their 
sinful habits. I do not wisli, sinner, to make out that re- 
pentance is impossible for you, or to drive you to despair, because 
you wish to defer your conversion, and to continue longer in sin; 
but this much I must tell y(Tu, that you will find repentance ten 
times more difficult hereafter, and that, if yoii are reasonable, you 
will say to yourself: If I find it hard to repent now, what will 
it be when the habit of sin has become inveterate? Therefore 
throw that heavy stone at once off your lieart.^ ^' To-day, if you 
shall hear His voice, harden not your hearts! " ' Do it at once, 
to-day; do not wait even till to-morrow, and much less for a few 
months, or years, or till old age, as you had determined. 

The difficulty of conquerinc: your bad habits will be made ^^^"^^^*^ 

•^ T. o .; ^ bemoredif- 

greater, too, by the devil, in whose service you are. Every sinner acuitasfar 
must know by experience, even if Holy Scriptui-e said nothing asthedevii 

" • is COD* 

about it, that he is a slave and servant of tiie devil. But per-^^j^^g^j^ 
haps you think that it is only a figurative slavery? If so, then 
just consider for a moment what you are and how you live; 
what strange, contradictory, and bewildering thoughts occupy 
your mind; what uneasiness and anxiety disturb your con- 
science, and what startling changes and contradictions there are 
in your will; and you will soon see that you are the slave of a 
remorseless tyrant, whom you must obey in all things, as the 
slaves among the Turks have to obey their taskmasters; nay, 
that you are, so to speak, compelled to dance to his piping. 
" They may recover themselves from the snares of the devil," 
writes St. Paul to Timothy, **^by whom they are held captive at 
his will."' Are you not often aware of an inward impulse to do 
some good work? For instance, you know that it would be 
better for you to go to church, to hear a sermon, to remain away 
from that dangerous company, to say your prayers, to go to 
confession and Communion, etc.; but in spite of that knowledge 
of yours, the devil, either by himself, or by means of others, com- 
pels you, as it were, to go somewhere else, where you will commit 
a number of sins. How can he do that? Because you are not 
your own master, but his servant and slave, since you have given 

* Hodie, si vocem ejus audieritis, nolite obdumre corda vestra !— Ps. xciv. 8. 

' Resipiscant a diaboli laquels, a quo captivi tenentur ad ipslus voluntatem.— II. Tim. 11. 36. 

68 The Difficulty of Correcting Bad Habits, 

yourself over to liim by your sinful habits. Thus he can do 
with you what lie pleases; if he tells you to curse and swear, you 
are ready to do so; if he commands you to talk impurely, to 
slander your neighbor, to seek revenge, to sin against holy 
purity, you obey at once, although you know tliat you are doing 
wrong, and are acting against God and your conscience, to your 
own great detriment. So completely are you a slave to the devil. 
Who has all ^Vhat becomes now of your intention to repent, to amend 

tuc mor6 *' 

power over 3'^"^ kicked ways and to be converted to God after some years, 
the sinner, when you have spent your youth in sinful pleasures, and have 
fully satisfied all your inordinate appetites? If the devil has 
already so much power over your will, after you have lived for 
a few years or months in sin, what power will he not have after 
you have spent still more years and months in his service, 
adding daily sin to sin? If you cannot free yourself now from 
the ten or twelve cords with which he has bound you, how will 
you be able to escape when you are fettered in iron chains from 
head to foot? When the man whose son was possessed by the 
devil complained to Our Lord that the disciples failed to cast 
out the evil spirit, as we read in the Gospel of St. Mark, Our 
Lord asked at once: ''How long a time is it since this hath 
happened unto him? '' ' And the father answered: " From his 
infancy.'' A strange question, my dear brethren, for Him to 
ask to whom nothing is unknown! For there is no doubt that 
Our Lord knew more about the matter than the young man's 
father did. Why did He ask the question then? In order, says 
the Glossa, that we may understand why the disciples could not 
drive out the devil. For it is as if Christ said: Since he has 
been possessed since childhood, it is no wonder that the evil 
spirit does not wish to leave him. sinner, if it is now diffi- 
cult for a confessor or a preacher to drive out of your heart the 
demon who has taken possession of it by the habit of sin, who 
will be able to expel that evil spirit after he has possessed you 
for several years longer? God alone could do it, and that too by 
a miracle of grace. But I am afraid there is little chance of His 
helping you, if you continue to despise Him as you now do. Do 
you not see that, by deferring repentance, you are making it 
more difficult, and are entangling yourself more and more in the 
snares of the devil? 
And at last I pity the lot of the Israelites before they were freed from the 
|Ie?tScT s^^^^^y ^^ Egypt, for they weie forced to labor hard, " and they 

> Quantum temporis est, ex quo el hoc accldlt ? Ab Infantla.— Mark Ix. £0. 

The Difficulty of Correcting Bad Habits, 69 

built for Pharao cities of tabernacles." ' unhappy people, do ^Jj^^^'j^""' 
you not know what you are doing? Can you not guess for what for him. 
the walls you are building are intended? They are to serve as 
your prison, to prevent your escaping from bondage. If you 
desire liberty, why do you labor to defeat your desire? Every 
brick you lay makes the walls of your prison higher and renders 
escape more difficult. Do you understand the figure, sin-, 
ners? Alas, much more do I pity your poor souls! "Pharao," 
savs Paulinus, '* compelled the children of Israel to build walls 
to prevent their own escape; and in the same way the devil 
urges sinners to add sin to sin, that they may surround them, 
selves with a wall, which will imprison them perpetually. " » 
How the devil must laugh at your labor and at your intention 
of doing penance after you have committed still more sin! You 
are like a bird ensnared in the nets of the fowler, that entangles 
itself still more by its futile efforts to get free, to the great 
amusement of its captor. 

But supposing even that the devil were to leave you in peace. Finally, it 
and to place no obstacle in the way of your conversion, and that difflcuitTr 
God were to bestow on you a powerful grace; even then there far as the 
would be a greater difficulty on the part of your own will to gp^^fj^^'^'™" 
co-operate with grace, and a more determined opposition to the cemed. 
call to repentance. For, do you know what is required for a 
sincere conversion? The grace of God is not enough, but you, 
sinner, must work with it, and you must once for all hate 
above all evils everything you have hitherto loved against the 
command of God; while you must love more than all imaginable 
goods everything you have hitherto hated and avoided against 
the command of God; and you must have, moreover, a firm, 
earnest purpose never for all eternity to consent, even in mere 
desire, to a mortal sin, for the sake of any pleasure, or person, 
or thing, and to avoid carefully all dangerous occasions of sin. 
If you have not those dispositions, your repentance is worth 
nothing. What do you think of the matter now? Is it not likely 
that your conversion will be far more difficult, when the inor- 
dinate love of sinful pleasures has been heated and inflamed to 
the highest degree by the fuel that has constantly been supplied 
to it? when your disgust at and dislike of good works have 
taken deeper root in your heart? 

* ^dlflcaveruntque urbes tabernaculorum Pharaonl.— Exod. 1. 11. 
' Compullt Pharao Alios Israel facere muros, ne possint exlre ; Ita diabolus In tallbus 
acit addere peccata peccatis, ut inde murum faclentes iucludantur, ne exeant. 

, ^^y. . ■gf.jag.^^ ,^.... ■^^,yj,..a;qjj 

ways on the 

70 77/^ Difficulty of Correcting Bad Habits, 

d^lreand ^^ ^^^^^ Scriptiire sin is compared to a weight or burden, to a 
habit of sin bandage, to a cord, to an illness, and to a skin. It is a iimght that 
will be ai- oppresses the overbnrdened soul, so that it cannot raise itself to 
heavenly and supernatural things. There is a child groaning 
under a burden it can scarcely lift; if you increase the load by 
twenty, thirty, or a hundred pounds, will it become easier to 
carry? Every sin is a bandage, that blindfolds the eyes of the un- 
derstanding, so that it can hardly discern good from evil. If you 
tie a bandage over your eyes, you will have great difficulty in 
seeing; if you tie on several bandages, you will not be able to see 
at all. Sin is a cord that draws the will away from good and 
binds it fast to evil; double that cord, and you* will deprive the 
will still more of its freedom and make it, as it were, a prisoner, 
as St. Augustine testifies to have been the case with himself, 
when it appeared to him almost an impossibility for him to 
amend his life. And why? '' I was sighing in bondage, being 
kept therein not by another, but by my own iron will,''' which 
had become quite hardened by' long- continued habits of sin. Sin 
is a malady of the soul. A fresh wound, says St. Bonaventure, 
can be easily cured; but when it gets old, no medicine can do it 
any good. The habit of sin is like a shin. "There are some," 
says Cardinal Hugo, "who put on the habit of sinning, not like 
a garment that may be taken off, but like their own skin, which 
can hardly be removed." ' A young and tender skin is so sensi- 
tive that it cannot bear the prick of a needle, but the skin that 
has become hardened and callous by work can bear even burn- 
ing coals. In the same way, says Eusebius Emissenus, "the 
unfortunate habit of sin has this effect, that it makes one less 
sensitive to sin the more he sins, while it gives him a greater 
desire for sin; " ' because the inclination to evil is strengthened 
thereby, and the desire for forbidden pleasures increases the 
more it is indulged. From this comes, as St. Augustine says, a 
calm repose in wickedness, so that the sinner is quite satisfied 
with his condition, and has no desire to change it; nay, sin be- 
comes to him a second nature, a necessity. " When a habit is 
not resisted, it becomes a necessity, " * which cannot be changed 
afterwards, no matter how much one may wisli to change it. 

* Suspirabam llj?atus, non ferro aljeno, sf d ferrea mea voluntate.— S. Aug. I. 8, Conf. c. 5. 

* Quidam induunt se consuetudine prava, non sicut vestimento, quod potest auferri, sed 
sicut pelle sua, quae vix potest exui.— Hugo in Joan. 13. 

' Habet hoc infelix eonsuetudo peccandi, ut quantum ampllus peccaverlt, tanto minus 
pecoata ipsa intelilgat, et tanto plus peccare delectet. 
^ Dum consuetudinl non resistitur, facta est necessltas. 

The Difficulty of Correctiitg Bad Habits. 7 1 
Xow, sinners, let us consider this matter reasonably. You Hence he 

. . -,' nr. ^ , P j_ ^ l • Af • ^^ hardly 

acknowledge that it is difficult for you now to abstain trom sm, ^eabie to 
although you are not yet so far away from the true light and overcome 
from God; how do you think it will be with you hereafter, when cuity'^ere- 
God and His light are still farther fcom you? You have now after, 
perhaps to contend against twenty, fifty, or a hundred sins; by- 
and-by there may be thousands of them. You have now to 
overcome a habit of one or two months; in time that habit will 
have a standing of many years. If you confess now that it is 
very hard for you to overcome your nature, how will you be able 
to do it when your nature shall have become more and more cor- 
rupt by daily sins? If you cannot noAV resist an inordinate in- 
clination, which as yet is only as it were a little barking cur, 
how will you be able to resist it when it has become a fierce, 
roaring lion? You cannot extinguish your desire now, although 
it .is as yet but a spark; how will you be able to conquer it wheu 
it lias become a great fire? You have a difficulty now in 
breaking a thread; how will you hereafter tear asunder a strong 
cable? The nail as vet has been struck by the hammer only two 
or three times, and you cannot pull it out without trouble; how 
will you be able to extract it when it has been driven in to the 
head by repeated blows? Your wound is still fresh, but it is 
hard to heal; how will you heal it when it has become putrid 
and cancerous? You cannot climb the mountain now, although 
you are half way to the top; how will you climb it after you 
have tumbled down to the very bottom. In a word, if it is so diffi- 
cult for you now to overcome your bad habits and do penance, 
what will it be hereafter, when the skin shall have grown hard 
and callous, when the stone shall have been secured by so many 
bolts and bars. 

Alas, what a terrible tlireat Christ Himself launches forth He win re- 
against yoij! "You shall seek me, and shall not find Me; " ^unjeaih. 
you shall die in j^our sins;' a threat that is to be understood par- 
ticularly of the habit of sin. Truly, all the sins we commit are 
our sins; they are ours as to their malice, which comes from our 
perverse wills; ours as to the guilt and punishment tliey deserve, 
which guilt remains in us until we do penance; yet the sins we 
commit now and then through frailty, or when overcome by a 
violent temptation, are, properly speaking, not our sins as fai* as 
our inclinations and desires are concerned: for we repent of 

* Quaeretls me, et non invenletJs.— John vii. 34. 
' In peccato vestro morlemini.— Ibid. viil. 21. 

and exhor- 
tation til 
once to 
amend one's 

72 The Difficulty of Correcti7ig Bad Habits, 

them eiisilv, and soon throw them oil our conscience. But the 
sins that are committed through long-continued habit, since 
they proceed from a more violent inclination and a more intense 
desire, and we persevere in them with studied intent and satis- 
faction, such sins have a special claim to be called our sins; just 
as a father calls his favorite child, "^ my child," although he 
has other children as well. In your sin then, unhappy 
wretches, in your bad habits, which you refuse to amend, you 
will die, and go down to eternal death. 

Therefore I repeat, if you are in earnest about going to heaven, 
and coiiscquently if you are in earnest about amending your 
lives, oh, then do not delay any longer! Do not wait till your 
salvation becomes almost impossible! Be like St. Augustine 
and make an earnest resolution to repent at once. lie found it 
just as hard as you do to roll away the heavy stone from his 
heart, and he was always putting off his conversion from day to 
day; at last he said to himself: " How long shall I keep on say- 
ing to-morrow, to-morrow? Why not at once? Why should not 
this hour be the last of my disgrace? " ' Do you also say, I will 
give up sin, and why should I wait till to-morrow, or next year, 
or till some uncertain future time? Why not at once? Is not 
sin at this moment the worst evil that could befall me? I will 
renounce the devil, and escape hell; but why should I wait for 
8ome years before doing so? Is not the devil cruel enough, or 
heir hot enough now? I will one day enter on the road that 
leads to heaven; but why should I put off doing so? Is not heav- 
en good enough or beautiful enongli for me now? I will begin 
one day to love Thee, my God, and to serve Thee zealously; 
but why do I not begin at once? Art Thou not now worthy of 
iiiiinite love? Have I not already offended Thee enough? Ah, 
my God, worthy of all love, the first offence I offered Thee 
was too much! Never should I have done anything to dis- 
please Thee! Shall I continue then to embitter Thee still more, 
to go away stiU farther from Thee, and to despise the grace Thou 
offerest me? Oh, no. Almighty and eteinal God, I am now firmly 
resolved to amend at once! I will wait no longer; this very day 
the stone must be rolled away. At first I shall find it rather 
hard to change my mode of life, to give up the pleasures, the 
creatures I have been attached to; but I know that in time I 
shall enjoy peace of heart under Thy mild yoke, and that before 
long I shall be able to exult with St. Augustine, and say: '*0h, 

1 Quamdia eras et eras? quare non mode ? quare non bac bora finis turpitudinls mea9 ? 

The Torment Caused by a Bad Conscience, J2> 

how sweet it ha» all at once become to me to be without the 
sweetness of vanities!"' Thou, Almighty God, who on this 
day didst send Thy angel to roll away the heavy stone from the 
door of the sepulchre, that the pious women who were seeking 
Thee might enter unhindered, 'Thou, if Thou wilt, canst by Thy 
grace make everything possible and easy for me now! If I look 
at my manifold sins, I must acknowledge that I have made my- 
self unworthy of this grace. Alas, I am sorry from the bottom 
of mv heart that I have sinned so often! But Thy infinite mercy 
is not shortened; that very Blood that has washed away so many 
sins, has not 5^et ceased to flow for mine! Permit me then to pros- 
trate myself before Thee, and implore Thee to give me a power- 
ful grace, which will soften my heart, so that I may at once do 
penance for my sins; and strengthen my will against all tempta- 
tions and dangerous occasions, so that, after I shall have rolled 
away the heavy stone from my heart, I may never again fall into 
the grave of sin, and may love Thee, my God, who art so wor- 
thy of love, with my whole heart and above all things, to the end 
of my life. Lord, hear this my prayer! Amen. 



A bad conscience tortures the soul most keenly, 1. by con- 
tinually upbraiding her with her sins; 2. by continually 
threatening her with eternal damnation on account of her sins* 
therefore we should at once free ourselves from sin by penance, 
and never commit it again. — Preached on the Feast of St. Tliom- 
aSf Apostle. 


Post dies ado iterum erant discipuli ejus intus, et Tliomas 
cum eis. — John xx. 26. 

"After eight days again His disciples were within; and 
Thomas with them.'' 

So obstinate and stiff-necked had Thomas become in his re- 

' O quam suave mibi sublto factum est, carere suarltatlbus nugarum. 

»'-;V'^ irv ^i' ■" ■ 


74 7>J^ Torment Caused by *a Bad Conscience, 

fnsal to believe in the resurrection of Christ, that he separated 
himself from the disciples and would have nothing to do with 
them; for he could not hear with patience the arguments b\^ 
which tlicv proved to him that Christ had certainlv risen from 
the dead, and that they had seen and conversed with Him. Yet 
he eventually came back to them again, doubtless on account of 
the uneasiness his bad conscience caused him; for he must have 
felt the stiug of remorse when he remembered that he tried to 
make himself out wiser than the others, and that he persevered 
so long in his unbelief. To get rid of his uneasiness, at least in 
part, he again sought the company of the other disciples, after 
he had been away from them for eight da3^s. And truly it was 
well for him that he did so, as otherwise he might never have 
regained peace of conscience, but have continued in his unbelief; 
for when Our Lord appeared to him on this occasion he acknowl- 
edged his error, and cried out, full of sorrow and repentance: 
*' My Lord and my God ! " How wonderful are the goodness 
and mercy of God to sinners! He invents all sorts of means to 
draw them to Himself and to keep them away from sin. He 
represents to them the uncertainty of life, the misery of an 
unhappy death, tlie loss of eternal happiness, and the inevitable, 
eternal torments of hell consequent thereon; and all these truths, 
as well as temporal trials and crosses, are so many special means 
that He makes use of to bring sinners to their senses. But, 
besides. He has given them over to a domestic torture, whose 
business it is to torment them day and night, nameh^ their own 
bad consciences. sinners, if you are not sunk in the lowest 
depths of wickedness, you must know by your own experience 
what a cruel tormentor a bad conscience is! And are vou not 
foolish, then, to remain in the unhappy state of sin, or to make 
a deliberate clioice of that ^tate by committing sin? For if you 
fear neither death, nor hell, nor any other punishment, at least 
the uneasiness and torment of your own consciences should 
frighten you.. And it is a torment which has not its equal on 
earth, as I shall now show by way of salutary warning to you, 
and I say: 

Plan of Discourse. 

A had conscience tortures the soul most Jceenlyj hy continualhj 
upbraiding her ivifh her sins; as I shall explain in the first part. 
A had conscience tortures the soul most keenly hy continually 
threatening her with eternal damnation on account of her sins; 

The Torment Caused by a Bad Conscience, 75 

as I shall explain in the second part. Therefore he acts cruelly and 
foolishly towards himself who does not at once free himself from 
the actual state of sin, or who intends- committing sin in future : 
the inference that follows naturally from the premises. Chris- 
tians! let 710 ne of us he so foolish I Such shall he the conclusion. 

Help us to keep it, Christ Jesus! We ask Thee through the 
intercession of Mary and the holy guardian angels. 

There is no doubt that it causes most exquisite torture to be 
upbraided with what one is deeply ashamed of, and tries to hide 
in every possible way. But the torture is still worse when one 
cannot deny or excuse one's self for that which causes his 
shame, and when the accuser is a person of high authority, 
against whom no defence is possible, so that the only thing to 
do is to hang one's head in utter confusion. But the worst of 
all is, when the upbraiding is kept up for a long time, with bitter 
words and sarcastic laughter, and that under such circumstances 
the person upbraided is compelled to stand by and listen; this, I 
say, is so great a torture, that any honorable man would prefer 
to be beatt'U black and bhie, rather than undergo it. Is it not 
so, my dear brethren? Some one says in company (and gener- 
ally speaking, slanderous and uncharitable remarks about the 
faults of otiiers form the staple of conversation): I know a 
certain person in town, whose name I will not mention, although 
he is well enough known, who has made a good deal of money 
in a rather unjust manner. What a shame for him! The man 
has no conscience, etc. I know one who is very frequent in his 
visits to such and such a person; it is easy to guess what he is 
after; he is a source of scandal to the whole neighborhood,^c. 
]Now if, during a conversation of this kind, any one happens to be 
present who is addicted to any of those vices, and thinks that 
the remarks are intended for himself, how ashamed he must 
feel! He gets red and pale alternately, and wishes he were a 
hundred miles away from the place, although the person speak- 
ing may not even have thought of him. How much greater 
would not his shame and confusion be, if the uncharitable 
remarks were pointedly directed at him! 

Imagine the state of Aman at the banquet given by Queen 
Esther to Assuerus. When they had eaten and drunk enough, 
Esther, at the king's command, made her request: " Give me ray 
life for which I ask, and my people, for which I request ; " * for 

* Dona mihi animam meam, pro qua rogo, et populum meum, pro quo obsecro Esther 


It wounds 
one deeply 
to be up- 
with a 
act that 
canuot be 

Shown by 
an example 
from Holy 

J 6 The Torment Caused by a Bad Conscience, ■ ' 

I and my people are to be slain. And, what is still worse, our 
enemy is in such a position that, acting as he does in the king's 
name, his cruelty will be ascribed to the king. Consider now 
my dear brethren, what must have been the state of Aman's mind 
on hearing himself accused so unexpectedly. The king, wroth 
at what he heard, asked: *' Who is this, and of what power, that 
he should do these things?" ^ The question was like a thunder- 
bolt to Aman. Biit Esther answered: ^* It is this Aman that is 
our adversary and most wicked enemy."' How great must have 
been the confusion of Aman at hearing this answer! "Aman," 
says the Scripture, "hearing this, was forthwith astonished, not 
being able to bear the countenance of the king and of the queen. " ' 
Full of fear and sluime and hardly conscious of what he was do- 
ing, he threw himself before Esther's couch, and would, no doubt, 
have rejoiced if he could have died on the spot. So intolerable 
is the torment caused by being upbraided with one's own shame. 
Nearly every day, sinner, you have to bear a similar tor- 
ment, after having mortally offended your God, unless, indeed, 
you are one of those who are sunk in the very dejithsof depravity, 
and have become callous and obdurate. If you are not gone so 
wickedness, far as that, then you will have torture and punishment enough 
to bear. You have within you, in your bad conscience, a devil 
that is by no means dumb; or, to speak better, your conscience is 
the devil that tortures you, by continually reproaching you with 
your shame in the bitterest terms; nor can you hear those re- 
proaches without heartfelt anguish and confusion; and yet you 
are compelled to listen to them against your will. The moment 
you satisfy your brutal lusts, or your inordinate inclinations, and 
commit a sin, the tormenting demon is, as you must acknowl- 
edge, already there, and he calls out to you, as Pilate did to 
Christ, "what hast thou done?"* Miserable mortal, where 
are you going to? Whither have your blind desires led you? 
Shame upon you I If any honorable man knew what you have 
done, you -would be covered with confusion! And yet the Al- 
mighty God has seen you while you were actually insulting Him, 
and trampling under 'foot His precious Blood. Is that your 
gratitude to Him for the countless gifts and graces He has be- 
stowed on you? And what better are you now for what you 
have done, poor wretch that you are? And what has become ox 

* Qufs est iste, et cujus potentlje, ut haec audeat facere ?— Esther vii. 5. 

- Hostis et Inimicus noster pessinaus iste est Aman.— Ibid. 6. 

' Quod ille andiens illlco obstupuit vultum regis ac reglnae ferre non sustinenii.- Ibid.. 

« Quid feclstl?-Jolui xvlll. 35. 

A bad con- 
science is 
always re- 
the sinner 
with his 

The Torment x^aused by a Bad Conscience. jy 

your soul? It is sold to the devil for a vile and momentary 
pleasure, for a worthless thing! How can you dare any more to 
lift up your eyes to heaven? What has become of the merits of 
your former good works? You have lost them all in a moment. • 
Where are now your so oft repeated protestations that you would 
rather die than offend God by mortal sin? How the devil must 
laugh at you, now that he has so easily ensnared you! And 
what must your angel guardian think of your conduct; for he 
was by your side when you so disgracefully forgot God and your- 
self, and, putting all honor and decency aside, sinned against the 
light of your own reason? Where is now jouv devotion to, your 
confidence in, the Mother of God? How can you dare to call 
her your Mother, after having so wickedly driven her most be- 
loved Son out of your heart? Such are the bitter reproaches of 
your conscience when you have committed a sin. And that is 
according to what God said to Cain: ^'If thou do well, shalt 
thou not receive ? But if ill, shall not sin forthwith be present 
at the door?"' That is to say, the remembrance of your sins 
will at once knock at the door of your heart, and will constantly 
cry out to you in tones of reproach, " what hast thou done?" 
And what have vou to say by way of defence? You cannot "^°?.^®^*^ 

•^ "^ ♦^ ^ ^ ^ nothing to 

deny what 3'ou are accused of; your conscience brings it clearly urge in ws. 
before you; whether you will or not, you must acknowledge your ^^<''^- 
guilt. In vain do you try to cloak your wickedness, or to allege 
false excuses for your sin. You may deceive men by them, but 
not yourself, your conscience speaks out plainly and distinctly; 
it cannot be deceived by flattery; and therefore you must hear it 
in silence, and bear your shame as best you can. You think per- 
haps, my sin was committed in secret, no one knows anything 
of it but myself and my associate in guilt, and I am certain that 
it will never be revealed, so that I can appear before men just 
as good as I was before, and they will have the same good opin- 
ion of me. True it is that, when you do wrong, you do not call 
in witnesses; and impurity, theft, and other shameful crimes are 
committed in the darkness of the night, and in hidden holes and 
corners, and are concealed from the eyes of men by a hypocritical 
appearance of piety; but tell me, asks St. Ambrose, "If you 
have no other witness of your sin, have you not the testimony of 
your own conscience?"" If no man knows of your guilt, it is 
known, at all events, to God and to yourself, and that is enough 

* Nonne si bene egerls, recipies? sin autem male, statlm in forlbus peccatum aderlt?— 
Gen. Iv. r. 
' Si non babes consclum, annou babes consclentla^ testimonium? 

78 The Torment Caused by a Bad Conscience. 

The Torment Caused by a Bad Conscience, 79 

Nor dare he 
s^ek conso- 
latioD anj- 

Nor can he 
free himself 
from the re- 
proaches of 

to cause you to be tortured by the pangs of remorse. If men, 
angels, demons, nay, even God Himself, were to leave you in 
peace, you have within you a torturer whose bitter reproaches 
3^ou must bear to your great confusion ; and it is in that espe- 
cially that the torment of a bad conscience consists, namely, that 
it annovs and troubles vou alone and in secret. 

Xay, the fact that you dare not make known your trouble to 
others, rather increases, than lesseiis it. Every one who is 
afflicted seeks consolation from his friends and acquaintances, 
and relates to them in detail all that he has to suffer, and he is 
able to bear his trials far more courageously when he is aware 
that others sympathize with him. The bitterest trial of all is 
the secret of which one dares not complain, and which he must 
bear alone and unsupported. Thus it often happens that a man 
appears outwardly with a smiling countenance, while in the 
depths of his heart he is consumed with anguish. And so it is 
in reality with the sinner who is iortured by a bad conscience. 
Shame prevents him from making known his sufferings to any 
one. That others have a good opinion of him, instead of lessen- 
ing, rather increases his torment; for his conscience continually 
cries out to him: See, men look upon you as good and pious, 
and you are in reality a slave of the devil! What must God 
thitik of you? 

And how are you to get rid of those importunate upbraidings? 
Will you run away from them? But whither can you go? No 
matter where you are, or what you do, you have your conscience, 
that is your tormenting demon, always with you. Nor can you 
induce it to be still; for conscience is, so to speak, without 
shame; it cannot be persuaded by flattery, or bribed by gifts; it 
is insensible to kind, as well as to harsh words, and it persists in 
doing the office entrusted to it by God, namely, exhorting and 
tormenting the sinner. It is a thorn in his side, which causes 
acute pain, that no ointment or medicine can allay until the 
thorn is pulled out. In vain do you keep away from sermons, 
lest you should hear some allusion to your secret vices; and it 
generally is the case that they who have a bad conscience are 
very negligent in hearing the word of God, especially when they 
have reason to suspect that the truth will be told them; but I say, 
it is no use for you to try to save yourself in that way, for at home, 
in your own room, you have a preacher who tells you the truth 
about your sins better than any one else, and that preacher is your 
own conscience, which reproaches you with your wickedness all 


the more bitterly because you try to avoid hearing what it has to 
say. When the bell rings for the sermon, your conscience says 
to you. Unhappy man that you are! You have gone so far now, 
that you dare not hear the word of God, which used to strengthen 
and comfort you in the divine service. In fact, do what you will, 
you cannot avoid the pangs of remorse, and at last you will be 
obliged, if you wish to get any rest at all, to make known your 
shame and your sin. 

Surius relates in the Life of St. Medard, that a thief once stole Shown by 
from that Saint a fine ox, and, as the animal had a bell round its 
neck, the ringing of which \niglit betray its whereabouts, the 
thief very carefully stuffed the bell with grass, and brought 
away the ox to his house. Hardly had he fastened the ox in 
the stable, when the bell commenced to ring of its own accord 
loud enough to be heard all over the place. The thief, in alarm, 
ran in at once to stop the bell, but he could not do so. At last 
he tore it off the neck of the ox, and hid it in his house, in a 
chest full of old clothes; but even then it continued making 
such a noise that the neighbors ran in to see what was the mat- 
ter. Thus the guilty mau was forced to make known the theft he 
had committed, to restore the ox to its owner, and to beg pardon 
most humbly for his crime. The same Surius, in his Life of St. 
AV'alburga, relates a still more remarkable incident. At Eich- 
stadt in Germany there was a man who had killed his tmvelling 
companion, in order to rob him of his money; as he was raising 
the dead body on his shoulders to carry it to a safe place, where 
he could plunder it at his ease, the dead man locked his arms and 
legs so tightly around the murderer, that the latter could not 
free himself. All his plans to get rid of his loathsome burden 
proving fruitless, the unhappy man, at last driven to desperation, 
threw himself into the Rhine, intending to drown himself with 
the corpse of his victim. But not even this plan succeeded; 
for the waters rejected him, and threw him back again on the 
bank. Thus he who was anxious to die was forced, against his 
will, to live, tied to a dead body. Consider, my dear brethren, 
what a miserable state the poor wretch must have been in. For 
a time he wandered about with his ghastly burden among the 
forests and caves of the mountains, in order to avoid the sight 
of men; but at last he was unable to bear the fearful stench of 
the putrifying body, and he went to the grave of St. Walburga, 
where he confessed to a priest the murder of which he was 
guilty and of which he had to carry the proof about with him. 

Until he is 
at last com 
pelied to 
disclose his 
shame in 

80 The Torment Caused by a Bad Conscience. 

and thus he was enabled to o^et rid of the dead body of his vie- 
tim at the grave of tlie Saint. 

Better examples than those,, my dear brethren, conld hardly 
be imagined to show liow remorse tortures the bad conscience. 
As soon as a mortal sin is committed the conscience commences 
to ring at once like a bell, and to cry out, what have you done? 
and, as God says by the Prophet Ezechiel, ^' Do thou also bear 
thy confusion;" ' of which text St. Jerome says, ^*he who is 
tortured by his own conscience, bears his torment about with 
him.''' How many plans the sinner resorts to, in order to stop 
the ringing of this bell, and to free himself from the heavy and 
loathsome burden of his own conscience! But all to no pur- 
pose. He goes into company in order to divert his mind from 
its troubles; he tries to steal away the time, as it were, from his 
cares and to conceal his anguish from the eyes of men by all 
kinds of amusements, feasting, and dancing; but in the very 
midst of his pleasures he hears the bell that cannot be silenced. 
His smiling countenance, hisoutw^ard gayety, are only a cloak to 
hide the trouble and uneasiness that are gnawing at his heart, 
which is groaning and sighing under a heavy burden. He tries 
to stop the bell with clot4ies and feathers, that is, he hopes to 
stifle his conscience for a time by indulging in excessive sleep; 
but even in his dreams he cannot get rid cf the cares that op- 
press him; as king David testifies of himself after he had fallen 
into sin, "I slept troubled;"' ''There is no peace for my 
bones because of mv sins."* Sometimes the sinner thinks that 
he will silence the voice of conscience, and get rid of his trouble 
by putting off his confession for months and years, or, what is 
still worse, by concealing in confession the shameful sin that 
causes him remorse; but he only makes matters worse; for the 
bell rings louder, the burden becomes heavier on account of the 
additional guilt of sacrilege. He then tries another plan, and 
imagines that outward acts of devotion, or long prayers, or alms- 

but here too he is 


giving, will quiet his uneasy 
mistaken, and his remorse is only increased, for he is continually 
reminded that his prayers and devotions are not sincere, since he 
has not honestly made his peace with God. No matter what 
efforts he may make otherwise to find peace, he will at last be 
forced, like the thief and the murderer, to disclose his own 

* Et tu porta confuslonem tuam.— Ezech. xvl. 52. 

' Portat tormentum suum, qui propria torquetur oonsclentla. 

* Dormlvl conturbatus.— Ps. Ivl. 5. 

* Non est pax ossibus mels a facie peccatorum meorum.— Ps. xxxvll. 4. 

then, is the 
sinner to 
expose him- 
self to such 
Shown by a 

The Torment Caused by a Bad Conscience. 8 1 

shame, to make known his sin in confession, and penitently and 
humbly to beg pardon for it. If he refuses to do that, he will 
never be freed from his torments. 

How painful it must be for a soul to be thus perpetually ^ooUsJJ 
tortured! According to the wise man, ''It is better to dwell in 
a wilderness, than with a quarrelsome and passionate woman;"' 
and I can easily imagine that such is the case; but is it not a 
still more unbearable torment to have to dwell with a bad con- 
science, that is always reproaching you? sinner! are you not 
really mad and out of your senses to expose yourself to such 
lasting and intolerable torture, and to forfeit the grace and 
friendship of God for the sake of some momentary pleasure, or 
trifling gain, or short-lived gratification of your evil desires? In 
the Arctic Ocean whales are sometimes seen writhing with i)ain 
as they swim on the top of the water, until at length, driven, as 
it were, to desperation, they rush toward the shore and allow 
themselves to fall an easy prey to the fishermen. They had no 
outward traces of wounds or sickness, nor do they seem to be 
flying from an enemy; the sea is calm, the wind still, and yet 
they are evidently tormented by something they cannot defend 
themselves against, or get rid of, because it is within them. It 
appears that there is in those regions a kind of bird, similar in 
size and appearance to our raven, and furnished with a long, 
sharp beak; when it finds the mouth of the w^hale open, it flies 
into its huge stomach and gradually gnaws away its heart and 
entrails. Frequently birds of this kind have been seen to come 
alive out of the open carcasses of whales. Thus a huge creature 
is forced to submit to a small bird, and to nourish and feed in 
its own body the enemy that gnaws away its life, although it is 
otherwise so strong that it can easily overcome any animal that 
attacks it by mere strength. It matters little to our purpose 
whether this story is true or false, for there is no doubt that it 
represents the remorse that gnaws at the conscience of him who 
is in the state of mortal sin, and shows how, in the midst of the 
apparent happiness and pleasures he enjoys, his heart is full of 
care and trouble; for, as St. Ambrose says, " the unreasoning 
sins of the soul gnaw at the mind and feelings of the sinner, 
and eat away the entrails, as it were, of his conscience." * If the 
whale were to seek for the bird and deliberately to allow it to 

' Melius est habitare in terra deserta, quara cum muliere rixosa et Iracunda.— Prov 
xxl. 19. 

'^ Irrationabllia animas peccata mentem rei sensumque compungunt et quaedam exedunt 
viscera conscientias.— S. Ambrose in Luc, 1. vii. c. U. 

iiTi lifi'iiiT I "Mr in 1 1 

i i' 

A prisoner 
Is preatly 
of death is 
passed on 

A sinner Is 
Iroubletl In 
the same 

82 The Torment Caused by a Bad Ccnccicnce. 

enter his stomach, then it would only serve him riglit, rJthoiicrh 
there would be some excuse for sucli a foolish proceeding in an 
unreasoning animal; but you; man, who know very well now 
sin plagues and torments you and gnaws at your lieart, how 
can you so readily and even laughingly swallow down the forbid- 
den morsel that 3-ou know will cause you such sulfering, for the 
sake of a momentarv pleasure? whom have vou to blame but 
yourseU"? And, indeed, according to the philosopher Seneca, 
you richly deserve the punishment you have brought on your- 
self. *'The first and greatest punishment of the sinner is sin, 
nor does any crime go unpunished, for every crime is its own 
punishment,"" ' since it is always reproaching the sinner. But 
the torment of a bad conscience does not end here, for, besides 
its bitter upbraiding, it threatens the siirner with eternal 
damnation as his final destim% as wo shall see briefly in the 

Second Part 

While a prisoner is being tried and his case still under examin- 
ation, he is full of anxiety as to how it will end; but if the judge 
l^asses sentence of death on him, his fear and terror know no 
bounds, as all those who have to prepare such prisoners for death 
know by experience. !N"o matter how resigned they may have 
been before to the will of God, so that one might think that 
.there would not be the least trouble in preparing them for death, 
when the fatal sentence is announced to them, they change at 
once, and give way to extreme anguish and despair, so that one 
can hardly dare to speak to them. They brood over their fate, 
and neither know wh^t they are saying themselves, nor under- 
stand what is said to them, and if their terror allows them to 
sleep, they dream of nothing but the sword, the wheel, or the 
gallows that is to deprive them of life. 

See, sinner, how it is with you, when you have within you 
the tormenting demon of a bad conscience. -It not onlv re- 
proaches you with your shame, but also reminds you that sen- 
tence of death, and of etenial death, too, has been passed on you. 
You are losti it says; you have deserved death! As long as you 
are in this state, you are doomed to destruction! Sentence is 
passed on yon already; away to hell, to eternal fire! When vou 
hear the roar of the thunder and see the flash of the linhtnins-. • 
you are filled with anguish by the voice of conscience, which cries 

» Prima et maxima poena peccantium est peccasse, nee uUum scelus Impunitum est 
quoniam scelerls in scelere suppliclum est.— Seneca, ep. 97 ad Lucll. 

The Torment Caused by a Bad Conscience, %t^ 

out to you, take care, an angry God is about to take vengeance 
on you! A thunder-bolt will fall on you; the lightning will 
strike you! Will you not now at least remember that there is an 
all-powerful God, Whom you must fear, and whom you have 
hitherto so grossly insulted? If a pestilence attacks the city, and 
hurries off numbers of the people to their graves, your conscience 
fills you with terror. Alas!, it says, what will become of you? 
Death is at your very door! Do you think you can escape the 
calamity from which so many good and pious people have suf- 
fered? It is you and such as you who have been the cause of 
this calamity, and what would become of you if you were now 
to fall sick and die? If you happen to hear of an accident, for 
instance, that poor man who was in perfect health when he went to 
bed last night, was found dead this morning; or, another man 
died in a quarter of an hour from a fit of apoplexy; or, that 
woman fell down and broke her neck; all these things are apt to 
fill you with mortal terror. Ah, your conscience says to you, 
"you deserve that fate better than that man or that woman! 
Who knows what may happen to you this very day? If you 
chance, even against your wdl, to be present at a sermon which 
treats of death, or hell, or the judgment of God, you are terror- 
. stricken; every word you hear seems to confirm the sentence of 
your eternal damnation. If your secret vice is even faintly 
alluded to, your conscience is at once on the alert; that is meant 
for me, you think; what business has the preacher to speak so 
pointedly at me? If you remain away from the sermon, your 
conscience is alarmed at the sound of the bell which gives the 
signal for it; there, it says, you have a clear proof of your 
eternal reprobation, since you avoid the word of God, which 
could bring you to repentance. So true are the words of the 
Holy Ghost in the Book of Wisdom, " For whereas wickedness - 
is fearful, it beareth witness of its condemnation; for a troubled 
conscience always forecasteth grievous things. '' * 

Yes, says St. Chrygostom, he who is plagued by a bad con- Nay, ^e even 
science often imagines that even lifeless creatures, the stones, imagines 
the wall, and the shadows on it are so many voices that pronounce creaturi'^ 
sentence (m him; he is like a poor prisoner who, when he hears condemn 
the least noise at his cell door, imagines that he is to be led forth J'''° = ^^'J^'^" 

"-' from Holy 

•at once to execution, although the noise may be merely the scripture, 
howling of the wind. The Holy Scripture gives us a striking 

^ Cum sit eaim tiinida neqiiltia, dat testimonium condemnationls ; semper enlm prae^ 
suinit s£eva perturbata conscientla.— Wis. xvli. 10. 

*^- -J-'-'- '-. - 


by other 

84 TAe Torment Catised by a Bad Conscience. 

proof of this in the wicked King Baltassar, as we read in tlie 
Book of Daniel. Baltassar was seated at table surrounded by 
the nobles of his kingdom, when, in the midst of his revelry, he 
suddenly grew pale: "^ Then was the king's countenance 
changed, and the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees 
struck one against the other,"' and he cried out in dread, so 
that all who heard him were alarmed. And what was .the mat- 
ter? What had frightened him? " There appeared fingers, as 
it were of the hand of a man, writing over against the candle- 
stick upon the surface of the wall of the king's palace; and the 
king beheld the joints of the hand that wrote." ^ But, asks St. 
John Chrysostom, why should he be so frightened at the sight of 
a hand? What could a bare hand do against a mighty monarch 
surrounded by his satellites, and having at his command a 
whole army to defend his life against all attacks? If, instead of 
a hand, he had seen an armed giant, or a grisly spectre threaten- 
ing him with a sword, he would have had some reason for alarm; 
but he saw nothing more terrible than the bare shadow or figure of 
a hand, not armed with a sword, but merely writing on the wall. 
And what did it write? Three little words, that the king did 
not even understand. What reason had he then for giving way 
to such excessive terror? It was not the hand, says St. Chrys- 
ostom, that frightened him, but his bad conscience, which 
made him suspect, what was really the case, that the hand was 
writing on the wall the sentence of death which his conscience 
had already pronounced on him. " For whereas wickedness is 
fearful, it beareth witness of its condemnation." 

There are countless examples of the same kind: Theodoric, 
king of Italy, nearly fainted with fright when he saw a fish 
brought to table, thinking it was the head of Symmachus, 
whom he had caused to be put to death, that was coming open- 
mouthed to devour him. When Henry VIII., king of England, 
was on his death-bed, he thought that those who were standing 
round were the religious whom he had banished or put to death, 
and who were coming to summon him before the judgment-seat 
of God. The emperor Constantius imagined that every shadow 
he saw was the ghost of his murdered brother, quaffing to him 
a goblet full of blood. Persus destroyed all the swallows' nests 
he could find, and killed the birds themselves, because he 

» Tunc fades rejrls comrautata est. Compages renum ejus solvebantur, et genua ejus ad se 
Invlcem colUdebantur.— Dan. v, 6. 

» Apparuerunt dlgitl quasi manus homlnis scribentls contra candelabrum In superflcle 
parietis aulae reglae ; et rex asplclebat artlculos manus scribentls.— Ibid. 5. 

The Torment Caused by a Bad Conscience. 85 

thought that they were always accusing him of having murdered 
his father. Thus, *' whereas wickedness is fearful it beareth 
witness of its condemnation." And this is the punishment 
that God threatens to inflict on sin, as we read in Deuteronomy: 
*' If thou wilt not hear the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep 
and to do all His commandments. . . . the Lord will give 
thee a fearful heart, and languishing eyes, and a soul consumed 
with pensivene&s. Thou shalt fear night and day, neither shalt 
thou trust thy life. In the morning thou shalt say: who will 
grant me evening? and at evening, who will grant me morning? 
for the fearfulness of the heart, wherewith thou shalt be ter- 
rified." ' This is the torment of which St. Paul writes to the 
Romans, "Tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man 
that worketh evil." " It is the torment of which St. Augustine 
says that "amongst all the tribulations that can afflict the hu- 
man soul, there is none greater than a bad conscience." ' Nay, 
if you wish to have, while still on earth, some idea of the tor- 
ments of hell, then learn what it is to have a bad conscience. 
Ask king David how his tortured him ; he will tell you: 
" There is no health in my flesh, because of Thy wrath; there is 
DO peace for my bones because of my sins. I am become miser- 
able, and am bowed down even to the end; I walked sorrowful 
all the day long. I am afflicted and humbled exceedingly; I 
roared with the groaning of my heart."* "My sin is always 
before me." ' The adultery and murder that I have committed 
are always before my mind. 

Perhaps you may think that, because David had, before he Even of the 
sinned, a good and tender conscience, it is no wonder that he felt ^en '^'''^ 
the sting of remorse so keenly afterwards? Ask, then, another, 
who was sunk in the very depths of depravity; Luther, I mean, 
who cast all honor and shame to the winds, who feared neither 
God nor man, who bid defiance to spiritual and temporal author- 
ity, to princes and potentates; and you will find that even he 

' Quod si audire noluerls vocera Domini Deitul, ut custodlas et facias omnia mandata 
ejus. . . . dablt enim tlbl Domlnus Ibl cor pavldum, et deOcientes oculos, et animam con- 
sumtam moerore. Timebls nocte et die, et non credes vitas tuae. Mane dices : quis raihi det 
vesperum ? et vespere : quis mlhi det mane ? propter cordis tul formidinem, qua terreberis. 
— Deut. xxvill. 15, (5.5-67. 

^ Trlbulatlo et angustla In omnera anlmam homlnis operantls malum. -Rom. 11. 9. 

^ Inter omnes tribulationes hunianje anlmse nulla major est, quam consdentia delictorura. 
Non est sanltas in came mea a facie irae tuae; non ast pax osslbus meisa facie 
^atorum meorum. Miser factus sum, et curvatus sum usque in flnem ; tota die contrls- 
taws ingrediebar. Afflictus sura, et humlllatus sum nlmls ; rugiebam a gemitu cordis mel. ^ 

' Peccatum meum contra me est semper.— Ps. 1. 5. 


86 The Torment Caused by a Bad Conscience, 

could not escape tlie tortures of remorse. Every day he indulged 
to excess in the pleasures of the table, hoping thereby to silence 
the reproaches of his conscience, but in vain. Hear liis own 
words on this subject, as they are given by Ulenberg, his bio- 
grapher: *• Because I sometimes appear cheerful, people tiiink 
I lead a happy life; but God sees what kind of a life I lead."^ 
He confessed to his friend Pomeranus that it was impossible to 
describe the mental anguish he suffered. You may read of 
people whose hair turned suddenly gray through remorse of 
conscience. Such was the case with Louis the Severe, whose 
hair turned gray in a single night through remorse at a murder 
he was guilty of; so that, although he was quite a young 
man, he looked next morning as if he were seventy years old. 
You will find examples of people who, to get rid of the tortures 
of remorse, made away with themselves by hanging themselves to 
a bed post, or piercing their hearts with a dagger, or cutting 
their throats, or drowning themselves, etc. Thus they preferred 
to go straight to hell, rather than bear any longer the torment 
of a bad conscience. So true is it that " amongst all the tribu- 
lations that can afflict the human soul, there is 'none greater 
than a bad conscience.^' 

Conclusion Sinners, to you I address my conclusion in the words of St. 

andexhor- p^^j ^o the Komans, " what fruit tlierefore had vou then in 

totion to 1 

leave the those things, of which you are now ashamed?" ' Tell me, pra}*, 
state of sin ^yhat advantage have you gained by incurring the guilt of sin in 
to avoid sin the Sight of God? What remains to you now of the past and 
to future, momentary pleasure in which you sought your gi'atification? 
What have you gained by concealing that abominable sin in con- 
fession? You know now by your own experience, although you 
may not show it outwardly, what the result of your sin is, and it 
is nothing else but secret shame, anguish, and remorse of con- 
Bcience, a hell upon earth. Are you not cruel towards yourselves 
in thus burdening your minds with such intolerable anguish? 
Are you not foolish in deferring repentance, when you can at 
once free yourselves from the miserable state in which you are? 
But perhaps you think I am exaggerating; perhaps you do not 
feel this torture so keenly? I know that not every sinner suffers 
from remopse in the same degree; there are some who suffer 
more, and dthers, less; according as their consciences are tender, 

* Quia me bilarem nonnunquam exbibeo putant me jucundam vitam ducere, sed Deus 
perspectam habet monim meorum rationem.— Ulenberg, In Vita Lutherl, c. 19. 
' Quern ergo fructum habuistls tunc in tills, In qulbus nunc erubescltls ?— Rom. vi. SI. 

The Torment Caused by a Bad Conscience. 87 

or hardened; in the same way, too, there are some vices that cause 
more shame than others; and finally, time lessens remorse to a 
certain extent; yet there is hardly any one who does not feel it 
in some degree or other. But if there is any one who, after hav- 
ing committed grievous sin, feels no uneasiness, nor remorse, 
then, alas I I need say no more to him, for he is evidently hard- 
ened in. wickedness and abandoned by God; and that is the 
greatest punishment, next to eternal damnation, that can be in- 
flicted on sin, as we shall see on another occasion. But if you 
still feel your consciences uneasy, oh, then thank God, and drive 
away the tormenting demon at once by sincere repentance and 
amendment! Do not think the worse of preachers or confessors 
if they reprove your vices sharply and try to deter you from 
sin by describing the malice of it. They mean well with you, 
and their object is either to save you from falling into, sin and 
from thus incurring the tortures of remorse, or to free you from 
the state of sin, if you are already in it. For my part, I could 
not endure such torment for a moment, and I believe that, if 
tliere was no other punishment for sin but an uneasy conscience, 
I should try to avoid all sin with the greatest care; and if there 
was no other reward for a virtuous life, but the peace of mind 
that a good conscience brings, that alone would be enough to 
induce me to try to do the holy will of God in all things. So it is, 
pious Christians! and let this be your conclusion: do not allow 
yourselves to be deceived by the false and merely apparent happi- 
ness of sinners; serve your God faithfully, and enjoy in the iDosses- 
sion of the highest good that peace which surpasses all worldly 
joys, and is a foretaste of the eternal joys of heaven. Amen. 

Another Introduction to the same sermon for the second Sunday 

after Easter, 


Vocem meam audient. — John. x. 16. 
" They shall hear My voice.^' 

This is the difference between the chosen sheep of Jesus Christ 
and the reprobate goats that are condemned to hell; the foTrmer, 
after having been brought to the true fold, hear the voice of 
their Good Shepherd, and endeavor to follow it always; whilcj 
the latter, at the first difficulty or temptation, allow themselves to 
be scattered and devoured by the hellish wolf. By these latter 
I mean those sinners who, after having been converted to God 


False Peace of a Sinful Conscience. 

False Peace of a Sinful Conscience, 



by true penance, do not remain faithful, but relapse easily into 
their former sins, and thus again take sides with the devil. I 
now beg of them to remember how wretched they were when in 
the state of sin, and, if they love themselves, not to inflict on 
themselves the pain and torture they had to suffer before; for 
there is no doubt that they will have experienced the truth of 
what God says in tlie Book of Deuteronomy, *' But if thou wilt 
not hear the voice of the Lord thy God, . . . the Lord will give 
thee a fearful heart, and a soul consumed with pensiveness."' 
"Will you not hear the voice of the Good Shepherd? Then you 
must, in spite of yourself, hear another voice, which will inces- 
santly torment and fill you with anguish. And what voice is 
that? The voice of your own bad conscience, a torment that has 
not its like on earth; so that we have therein a very good reason 
to avoid all sin, as I shall now show to your salutary warning, — 
continues as above. 




How and by what means people are wont to falsify and per- 
Tert their own judgment and conscience, so that, although the 
conscience is in a bad state, yet it remains in peace and quiet. — 
Preached on the feast of St. Matthias , Apostle. 


Et invenietis requiem animabus vestris.—M.M. xi. 29. 
** And you shall find rest to your souls." 

Oh, certainly sweet is the yoke, and light the burden, that he 
bears who, desirous of his eternal salvation, earnestly seeks to 
keep his conscience free from sin in the service of Jesus Christ, 
and to remain always in the friendship of God! Such a man 
finds out by experience the truth of the promise of Jesus Christ, 
•' Take up My yoke upon you. and you shall find rest to your 
Eouls/' And in reality he enjoys a sweet peace of soul, than 

^ Quodsl andire nolnerls vocem Doralnl Del tni . . . dablt tibl Dominus Ibl cor pavidum, et 
n til mam coDsumptam moerore.— Deut. xxviii. 15, 65. 

which there can be no greater in this life, and in which he may 
confidently rejoice in the Lord at all times, with his whole heart. 
Pious and just Christian; I congratulate you a thousand times! 
Continue with confidence to enjoy that consolation which is a 
mystery to the blind world and its infatuated children! Sinners! 
deplorable indeed is your condition, for you cannot have the 
least share in that consolation, as long as you are enemies of 
God, and in the state of sin. The intolerable torment of re- 
morse, of which I have spoken elsewhere, is the miserable portion 
that sin has left you! Ah, should not even this fact be enough 
to induce \o\x to leave at once the wretched state in which vou 
are, that you may again participate in- the peace and consolation 
of the children of God? Yet, as long as 3'ou feel the sting of 
remorse, you are, so to speak, the best amongst sinners; for 
there is still hope that your uneasy conscience will, as it were, 
compel you to repent and amend your lives, ^he worst and 
most wretched amongst you I can justly call those who, like 
you, are under the yoke of the devil, and yet imagine that they 
are living in peace and contentment. They imagine, I say; for 
there are Christians who are in a bad state as to their souls, 
since they have sinned grievously against certain command- 
ments of God, and who, in order to preserve their peace of 
mind, have recourse to many false arguments and pretexts to 
deceive their conscience, to falsify and pervert their judgment, 
and thus to persuade themselves that evil is good and lawful. 
These people do not act honestly towards God and their own 
souls; they have deliberately falsified and deceived their own 
conscience, and consequently their peace of mind is only a false 
and deceitful one, with which they are hurrying on blindly to 
eternal ruin. The heartfelt pity I have for sucb souls impels me 
to give this exhortation, in which I shall explain 

Plan of Discourse. 


How and by what meajis people are wont to falsify and pervert 
their ozvn judgment and conscience , so that, although the con- 
science is i7i a bad state, yet it remains in peace and quiet. Such 
is the whole subject, to the end that they who act honestly loith 
God, if they see that they do not belong to this class of sinners, 
maybe all the more confirmed in true peace of conscience; and 
that the others, having acknowledged the deceit they are guilty of, 
may enter on a better and a safe road to heaven, and take on 
themselves the sweet yoke of Jesus Clirist. 


False Peace of a Sinful Conscience. 

the con- 
never al- 
lows Itself 
to «be de- 
when there 
is question 

Yet the sin- 
ner finds all 
sorts of ex- 
cuses for 
sin, that n« 

Grant both those ends, Jesns Christ, by Thy powerful 
grace, which we beg of Thee through the intercession of Maiy 
Thy ^lother, and the holy guardian angels. 

But what am I saying? How is it possible to enjoy peace of 
mind by deceiving one's own conscience? Is it really possible 
for a man by any effort of lying craft so to deceive his con- 
science, that it can no longer tell him the trulh, and looks on 
evil as good, and sin as lawful? Is not the conscience, as St. 
John Chrysostom says, an impartial, just, and truthful judge, 
that cannot be deceived by bribes or flattery, nor terrified by 
contradictions or threats? A judge who cannot be reduced to 
silence, as I have explained already when speaking of the tor- 
ments of remorse; who cries out continually to the sinner, 
against the sinner's own will, what have you done? you have 
offended God and made Ilim your enemy; you are a child of the 
devil, and are doomed to eternal ruin, etc.; who, when one is 
on the point of doing something unlawful, cries out, as St. John 
the Baptist did to Herod, " It is not lawful;"' what you are 
intending to do is wrong I The way in which you make money 
is unlawful; you incur eternal punishment by your acts of 
injustice! It is unlawful for you not to pay your debts when you 
can, and to turn away from your door your laborers, your trades- 
men, and the shopkeepers with whom you deal, and to refuse 
them what is due to them! It is unlawful for you to spend so 
mnch on unnecessary luxuries, entertainments, and dress, so that 
you have nothing left to give the poor! Woman, that irregular, 
useless, idle life you are leading will never bring you to heaven; 
you are walking on the broad road that leads to hell! Tliat 
perpetual visiting, those gambling habits of yours, for the sake 
of which you neglect your domestic cares, that carelessness in 
training your children, which is the occasion of their learning 
worldly vanity and being introduced to all sorts of dangerous 
company; all that is unlawful! you are damning yourself as well 
as your children! Son! daughter! you are making too free 
with that person; you are doing wrong! The occasion of sin 
must be cut off; it is not lawful for you to dress in that scandal- 
ous fashion; if you do not amend in that particular you cannot 
enter the narrow gate of heaven, etc. 

It is true, my dear brethren, that at first conscience cries out 
in that way to every one who is guilty of sin; but what can one 
do to silence this voice of conscience, and to free himself from 

» Non licet.— Matt. 3dv. 4. 

The False Peace of a Sinful Conscience. 91 

the tortures of remorse? Self-love supplied all kinds of pretexts may keep 
and false arguments to pervert a man's judgment and to persuade ^!^f ^°°' 
him that there is nothing wrong in what he is going to do, that quiet, 
it is even good and praiseworthy^ It refers him to the example 
of others, who do the same thing without being ashamed of it; 
it encourages him to follow the advice of those who are ready to 
approve of everything that pleases him; it consoles him by re- 
minding him of the devotions he is in the habit of practising, 
and that are generally performed for the glory of God and the 
salvation of one's soul; it allows him to be blinded by his own 
passions and evil inclinations; it distracts him by temporal cares 
and worldly business, and prevents him from watching over him- 
-self and attending to the all-important affairs of his soul; and 
thus it brings him at last to such a state that he imagines he is 
on the sure way to heaven, and that he can continue in the 
mode of life to which he has grown accustomed. In this way 
one may lead a thoroughly un-Christian life, and yet find peace 
of mind. Bat since the conscience is deceived and betrayed, that 
peace is only a false one, that will surely bring with it, if not in 
this life, at least in the next, the gnawing worm of remorse. 

The first pretext, then, is the example of others, or the general Firstpre- 
custom. We see others doing wrong things without scruple or ^^^' ^^® 
shame, and as we are inclined to do the same things, we allow cuSZ'^f 
our judgment to be perverted, look upon sin as lawful, and thus °^^°' 
enjoy peace by deceiving our consciences. Long ago Our Lord 
reproached the Scribes and Pharisees with this gross error, when 
He accused them of appealing to the example of their fore- 
fathers by way of excuse for the grievous sins of injustice and 
uncharity of which they were guilty: '' But He, answering, said 
to them: why do you also transgress the commandment of God 
for your tradition?''' Yon, hypocrites that you are, say that 
what your fathers have done you also must observe. Bat woe 
to you. Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, that try to deceive 
yourselves in that way! And, my dear brethren, do we not find 
nowadays amongst ourselves similar pretexts and excuses, that 
people, try to make available by a sort of prescriptive right al- 
most, against the most important commandments of God? AYho 
is there now who makes the least scruple of anything, if he can 
say of it, it is the fashion; it is the common custom; it is what 
people do nowadays in the world; others like me do it, and he 

' Ipse autem respondens, alt lllls : quare et vos transfrredlmini mandatum Dei propter 
tradltlonem vestram.— Matt. xv. 3. 



92 The False Peace of a Sinful Conscience, 

who acts otherwise is looked down upon, and cannot get on in 
the world; there can be no harm in that which is done by every 
one? This, says St. Augustine, is what most people appeal to 
when they think, "will -God send every one to hell for that?'''^ 
And thus they flatter themselves that they are not doing wrong, 
and their consciences remain undisturbed.^; 
^"^vouT .■^"*' ""^ "^^^^ brethren, what a grievous mistake we make in 
errorjorno ^^^'^ matter, to the eternal ruin of our souls! Answer me this 
r^aSui ^"^'^^^^'. ^^^^ *^^« 1^^^ <>^ C}od, that prescribes humility, mod- 
tome'whut^^^-^'' Christian charity, temperance and abstemiousness, purity, 
is forbidden self-denial, mortification of the senses; the law of God that 

bymoiuw forbids all pride, vanity, scandal-giving, revenge, hatred and 

&^"*^<^ony and drunkenness, usury and unjust gains, 


impure love and all incontinence, etc.; does this law hold good 
only for a time, and in certain circumstances? or does it apply 
to all times and all circumstances? The good that this law 
commands, the evil it forbids, is it not always good or evil in 
itself? There is not a doubt of it, because the law of God that 
forbids us to do evil is founded on the law of nature. It is 
evident, then, that neither fashion, nor custom, nor the example 
of others, can make good and lawful that which is condemned by 
the law of God as bad and unlawful. No, no custom in the 
world can excuse me from grievous sin if, as many do, I were 
deliberately to deprive myself of the use of reason by excessive 
drinking. No custom can justify me if, as many do, I try to 
make unjust gains, or to keep unjustly what belongs to others 
by usury, or cheating in my business, trade, or profession, or in 
law-suits in which I am engaged. No custom on earth can 
make me to dress, as many do, in such a vain and luxurious style 
as to be to innocent souls an occasion of sin. No custom can 
make it lawful for me to return evil for evil, as many do, and 
to seek revenge for insults offered me. No cusliom can permit 
me to go into the proximate occasion of sin, or to keep up a sin- 
ful intercourse with a person of the opposite^^x. No custom 
can excuse me if, like many parents, I train/ up my children to 
every Avoi-ldly vanity; and the same is to U, said of everything 
that is forbidden by the law of God. If I do or omit anything 
against that law, then I, and all who do or omit the same, are 
gnilty of sin; and if I do not repent and amend my life, I'and 
all who act like me, even if the whole world did it,^ will'be lost 
eternally. There is not the least doubt of that. For if it were 

(^ Atunquld omnes peirditarus est Deus ? 

The False Peace of a Sinful Conscience. 93 

not so, most vices would cease to be vices and wonld become 
quite lawful; since, alas, manj vices have become so common 
that they are looked on as fashionable and as matters of course' 
But some may perhaps think, at least, there is some excuse for 
me. and a merciful God will not look on my sins as so grievous 
smce I only conform to tlie custom and example of others No' 
Christians! yon are quite wrong. The contrarv is the case; your 
sin IS all the greater and more inexcusable, the more common 
and fashionable it is; it offers a greater insult to God since von 
disregard him for the sake of following the general custom, and 
It cries out more piercingly to heaven for vengeance, and com- 
pels a just God to punish the worid. " The cry of Sodom and 
Gomorrha ,s multiplied," says the Holy Scripture, "and their 
sm IS become exceedingly grievons."' If there had been in 
those wicked cities even a few, twenty, fifty, or a hnndred who 
were free from the abominable vice of impurity, God in His 
mercy would have spared the cities, as He Himself said to 
Abraham: " I will not destroy it for the sake of ten."' But 
because the sin was general, all the inhabitants were destroyed 

orthat iIT,trT'-,-'°"^'*"^'°^^' ^^'^^'^ '*«-« dot'his 
or that. It IS the fashion or custom; I must do as others do; is 

the same as saying, others offend the great God; it is the fash- 
foot TndTlT %tr' ""T '""'* '" ''"""P'^ ^'^ '- «»^- 

foot and I too, will despise and offend Him. Is not that increas 
mg he malice of the sin, and making the vice more grtou 
bar different is the conclusion vou should draw accordin<r t„ 
ewordsofSt.Pau,tot.ieEphesi;uis.. -aiave no Tel low "li h 
the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove thL " • 
Redeeming the time, because the davs are evil, whl Jore be 
ome t unwise, but understanding what is the will of G^'" 
St . r **^' """' "'"■' "'" '" '"'^"y « 'he world who I'ead 

W "\ '" *'""«^ "^ f'"- ^ y«" <-»»• n the air is full of pesti 
ZImV"' ""'".''" "" "'"'P''' ''"' y°" ''-« t« f'« ="1 the more 

another 7""' """ ""^^ "^^ ^"-^ ''^"'*«ted to one vice or 

ano her, m accordance with the prevailing fashion, and therefo^ 

^^ Non dVlebo propter decern.- rt»ld. -^ 
^ „'^»'"*oon„nunlcurooperl„u,tam,.ct„„sb«™.,nm,m. -.aslsaatem redaixufe-Ephe,. 

lam pillty 
of contemn- 
ing God 

when I fol- 
low the 
custom in 

Therefore V 
am all the 
more bound, 
to avoid 
such cus- 


n a-M^^^^^aSaS^L 

Second pre 
text: the 
advice of 
those who 
approve of 
all we do. 

In this way, 
too, we de- 
ceive our- 

94 The False Peace of a Sinful Conscience, 

you have to be all the more careful, so as not to be, like them, 
unfaithful to God, that you may escape the eternal damnation 
that they incur, and may save your soul with the chosen few. 
It is useless, then, to appeal to the custom and example of others 
in order to excuse your sin and to set your conscience at rest; 
for by so doing you falsify your conscience, and gain only a 
deceitful peace of mind. 

The next pretext by which the conscience is deceived, is 
grounded on the advice of certain individuals whom one con- 
sults, when in doubt, to find out whether it is lawful to make 
a profit by doing business in such or such a way, or whether one 
is bound to restitution in a certain case or not, whether one 
ought to leave that house, that companion, or to abandon that 
person, whether one is bound under pain of sin to avoid that 
worldly fashion, and so on. Very often in cases of this kind 
the troubled conscience cries out, it is not lawful! If you do 
so, you commit sin! And how can one manage to get rid of all 
uneasiness, and at the same time to retain his former habit of 
injustice, impurity, or worldliness? He looks out for a con- 
fessor, or some one else, who apparently is experienced in matters 
of conscience; but what kind of a o~<? does he look for? For 
one whom he knows to be truthful and outspoken, and who will 
tell him plainly what the law of God and the claim of conscience 
require? Not at all! He does not want an advice of that kind. 
But he seeks for one whom he will be dble to persuade by flimsy 
arguments to give him advice that will be pleasing to him; one 
who, as he knows by experience, will let him off easily, and will 
approve of the mode of action that he is inclined to follow. 
But if the first adviser is not satisfactory, if he is somewhat too 
severe, then another is sought, who will deal with the matter 
more leniently, and say, yes, you are allowed to do that; 
there is no grievous obligation in the case; you need not be 
uneasy, etc. And thus the troubled conscience is set at rest, 
the former custom or habit is persevered in, and there is no 
danger of the torments of remorse. 

Alas, God help you ! you have thoroughly deceived and be- 
trayed your own conscience. " Thy prophets,'' as Jeremias 
says, " have seen false and foolish things for thee, and they have 
not laid open thy iniquity, to excite thee to penance; but they 
have seen for thee false revelations; " ' they have told you noth- 

* Prophetfie tul viderunt tib! falsa et stulta, nee aperiebant inlquitatein tnam, ut te ad 
poenltentlam provocarent ; viderunt autem tibi assumptiones falsas.— Lament. 11. 14. 

The False Peace of a Sinful Conscience, 


ing but lies, or rather you wished to hear nothing else from 
them; you have deliberately looked for a prophet who would 
not tell you the plain truth, but would help you to excuse your 
sins and vices, so that you should not be obliged to repent of 
them. Do you think that -you will be able inlthat way to ex- 
cuse your sins at the judgment-seat of God, who searches the 
reins and the heart? you will find out later on, and you will 
see that you have not dealt honestly with your conscience. For 
if that pretext were available, we should again have to erase 
most vices from the list of sins, because there is hardly one of 
them that will not find a patron and protector to excuse it, and 
approve of it, either through ignorance, or thoughtlessness, or 
not understanding the thing properly, or flatterv, or cowardice 
or human respect, that prevents him from answering according 
to the truth. Alas, how often consciences are deceived in this 
way, even m the confessional! And hence it is that frequently 
no restitution is made of ill-gotten goods, nor atonement for 
injustice, nor the injured fame of another made good, nor the 
proximate occasion of sin avoided, nor sinful and scandalous 
abuses laid aside, and men continue in their sinful habits until 
the end of their lives, without scruple or uneasiness, and with 
peace of conscience; but it is a false and deceitful peace 

The third pretext for falsifying the conscience comes from our Thimpre- 
own evil inclinations and passions, which pervert the iudo-ment ^^^'- ^' 
and blind the understanding, so that we refuse to acknowledge c^nr^rr 
our obligation, or at least to look on it as serious, in many mat- 
ters of duty, either because we find a difficulty in them or 
because they are opposed to our natural inclinations. In this 
way we act like a drunken man who is unable to discern good 
fix)m evil, and who runs open-eyed into danger without seeing 
wiiere he is going; and if any one beats or strikes him, he is 
incapable of feeling the pain of the blows until the next morn- 
mg This IS always the case with those who allow themselves 
to be led astray by their unmortified passions and evil inclina- 
tions; and the Prophet Joel says to such people: - Awake ve 

at f'l^^'"'t7 • ' "^^^' ^?- ^"^^"^'^^^^' ^P^^^"^^ "^ ^^^^- person 
says. Everything is good as long as it suits our inclination -» 

A passionate vindictive man can hardly bear the sight of one itis aiie^ 
^ho has injured or insulted him; a thousand schemes of revenge '°^^^'^'^«* 
nm through his head everyday; wherever he goes he has not '^''^''''- 

* Experglsclmini ebril.— Joel 1. 5. 

^ Omne quodcumque volumus, bonum est. 

f*-'-- -^L^iA. 

96 The False Peace of a Sinful Conscience: 


a £^ood ^yord for his enemy, but heaps curses and maledictions 
on him, and slanders him in every possible manner; and what 
does his conscience say to hin; about all those sins? Sins? Ho 
never thinks of them as sinful; he imagines he has a perfect 
riglit to act in that way, and that his own honor and good name 
require him to do so. An avaricious man will hardly see any 
sin in being very stingy towards the poor, in trying to gain u 
law-suit unjustly by bribery, in allowing himself to be bribed to 
hold his tongue when he ought to speak, or to speak when he 
ought to hold his tongue; in a word, every contract or matter 
of business that offers him a chance of making a profit is sure 
to be good and lawful in his sight; while he claims credit from 
God for his avarice, which he looks upon as a praiseworthy and 
necessary economy, as a proof of his fatherly prudence in pro- 
viding for his children. What does an impure man think ot 
undue familiarity with the opposite sex, of the evil thonghts 
and desires that fill his heart, of the double-meaning expressions 
and impure conversation he indulges in, of the signs and ges- 
tures he makes, contrary to Christian modesty? He makes very 
light of those things; they are only ordinary acts of courtesy or 
friendliness, such as are in common use amongst men; there is 
no sin in them, unless they are carried to extravagant lengths, 
and even then they look on the sin as the result of human weak- 
ness, that deserves the pity rather than the anger of God. The 
woman whose mind and manners are in thorough conformity 
with the vanity of the world thinks it no sin to appear in 
church and at the Table of the Lord, dressed in luxurious and 
extravagant style; nor to have her hair dressed by a person of 
the opposite sex; nor to bring up her daughters to the same 
vanities, and allow them to go into dangerous company; nor to 
waste part of the day in sleep, and the rest in dressing, while the 
evenings are devoted to visiting and gambling, and household 
cares are neglected, as well as the Christian training of her chil- 
dren. All these tilings are utterly opposed to the duties of a 
Christian life, and to the obligations of her state; but what does 
she care for that? She does not even think it worth her while 
to mention them in confession, much less to repent of and avoid 
them. In fact, she is so blinded by passion, that she looks upon 
that incessant visiting and the habit of gambling as virtues, in- 
asmuch as she pretends that thereby she can avoid idleness and 
uncharitable talk, as well as other sins, while mutual friendship, 
love, and charity are fostered, etc.; her extravagance in dress 

The False Peace of a Sinful Conscience. 97 

she considers a matter of necessity, in order to please her hus- 
band, etc. Once we have a desire for a thing, it must be good. 
And people in this state go frequently to confession and Holy 
Communion without scruple or shame: they imagine even that 
they are very pious and good if they are constant in the perform- 
ance of certain outward works of devotion, and their consciences 
are at rest. But, deplorable blindness! "woe to you that call 
evil good;"' and are so blinded by your passions, that you try 
to turn vices into lawful customs! It is a false conscience, that 
causes a false peace of mind, and it will not be able to deceive 
God; for, as St. Jerome says: " that calm is a storm." ' 
The fourth pretext for falsifying and betraying the conscience The fourth 

comes from carelessness and sloth in what concerns our eternal ^^^^^^^ 

1 J.- mi XI T , , comes from 

salvation, ihus there are people who hardly think of examin- want of 

ing their actions once a week, to see whether they are ffood or ^^^^'"J- 
'^ ,-\ j_ 1 J -11,1 ,T -. . nessover 

evil; they take no trouble to learn the duties and obligations of oureeives. 
their state; they seldom or never come to sermons or instructions 
in which those duties might be explained to them ; from morning 
till night they are distracted with all sorts of worldly occupations, 
and they hardly ever think of the presence of God; they gratify 
their senses to the full in all things, and thus commit hundreds 
of sins that they take no notice of ; and withal, if they hear 
holy Mass on Sundays and holydays, observe the usual fasts, 
commit no murder, adultery, or manifest injustice, confess their 
sins four times a year, say a part of the Rosary, or the Little 
Office of the Bl6ssed Virgin, or some confraternity prayers every 
day, they imagine that they are in a very good state, and so 
they live on, with their consciences at rest, and without remorse 
or anxiety. Nor is there any reason to be surprised at that. 
They commit sins enough; but since they take no notice of 
them through carelessness, wilful and culpable ignorance, and 
deliberate avoidance of the light and the encouragement they 
might receive by hearing the word of God, which is so neces- 
sary for them, they cannot arouse or disturb their slumbering 
consciences, and they remain in that way of which the Wise 
Man says, "' There is a way which seemeth just to a man; but 
the ends thereof lead to death. " ' 

holy servants of God, whose relics are publicly venerated The saints 
on our altars, how differently you lived when on earth! How di^fferenaj^ 

* Vfie qui dicitis malum bonum.— Isa. v. 20. 
- Tranquillitas ista tempestas est. 

* Est via quae vtdetur homini justa; novlssima autem ejus deducunt ad mortem.— Prov 

ZiT.. 12. 


98 The False Peace of a Sinful Conscience, 

recollected you always were in the presence of God; how atten- 
tive to all your thoughts, words, and actions; how careful in 
following even the least inspirations of God; how diligent in 
avoiding every dangerous occasion of sin! you feared even tlie 
very name and shadow of sin, and yet most of you acknowledged 
with holy Job: •'! feared all my works,"' I was always 
anxious lest I should have done something displeasing to the 
divine Majesty. And why? "Knowing that Tliou didst not 
spare the offender;"'' and that Thou, most just God, woiildst 
not allow the least sin to go unpunished. "My ignorances do 
not remember; " » you have often cried out with the penitent 
David; that is, do not remember the faults and sins I have com- 
mitted through culpable ignorance and forgetfulness! So anxious 
were you, although your lives were so holy and perfect! But 
they who are daily immersed in all kinds of worldly business, 
who are constantly in dangerous occasions of sin, who hardly 
think seriously once in the day of God and their souls, who hear 
nothing good and do little good, who do much evil that is con- 
trary to the obligations of a Christian, and take not the least 
notice of it; they live in undisturbed repose and tranquillity of 
conscience! Ah, believe me, " that calm is a tempest! " 

Finally, there are people who live in the vices to which they 
comes from have accustomed themselves from year to year, and never leave 

^ssigno- the occasions of sin, so that they commit the same sins over and 
r&Dc©. 'ATI 

over again. And they are well aware, too, that they are doing 

wrong, but they do not let that disturb them; they feel no 
remorse, and most of the time their consciences are at rest. 
How do they manage that? They depend on their frequent 
confessions, and imagine that, when they have told their sins can- 
didly, they have done enough and have wiped out all old scores. 
Thus they continue in their bad habits and in the occasion of 
sin without any uneasiness, trusting to the confession they in- 
tend making during the week, so that they are continually 
alternating between sin and confession, confession and sin. 
Now this pretext for quieting one's conscience, so as to enjoy a 
false peace of mind, is the clumsiest of all, for, as I shall prove 
more in detail hereafter, the confessions of those people, since 
they are made without true sorrow and purpose of amendment, 
^^ are so many new mortal sins, and of course the absolution 

' Verebar omnia opera mea — Job Ix. 28. 

' Sciens quod non parceres delinquentl— Ibid. 

* Ignorantias meas ne memineris.— Ps. xxiv, 7. 

The fifth 

The False Peace of a Sinful Conscience, 99 

received in them is null and void. To these people, and to all 
who make use of the pretexts of which I have spoken, might be 
addressed the words of St. John to the Bishop of Sardis, "I 
know thy works, that thou hast the name of being alive, and 
thou art dead. " ' Alas, unhappy mortals! you flatter yourselves 
that you are in a good state, and that you have nothing to fear, 
because you are in the enjoyment of peace of mind; but your 
consciences are deceived, and your peace is only a false one, 
"There is a way, which seemeth just to a man; but the ends 
thereof lead to death." 

But if those people are made to hear the truth, if their con- THese 
sciences are disturbed and their attention called to the falsity, of ^^^^^ 
the pretexts on which their peace of mind is founded, they are to be dis- 
full of complaints and lamentations. They are like that foolish *"^^®^ *^ 
man in Greece, who imagined that he was always looking at a peace, 
most entertaining comedy, in which there was everything to de- 
light both ears and eyes; and while his delusion lasted, he was 
quite happy and contented; but when his friends, pitying the 
state in which he was, gave him medicine that brought him back 
to his sound senses, he cried out: Alas, my friends, what have 
you done? You have taken away my life in restoring me to rea- 
son! ' You have deprived me of all pleasure; I wish I were still 
a fool, that I might enjoy myself as before! It is just the same 
with those Christians who in any w^ay try to falsify their con- 
sciences that they may quiet the pangs of remorse. If they hap- 
pen to read a spiritual book, or to hear throuorh curiositv a ser- 
mon in which their pet vices are spoken of, and the truth is 
plainly told them; instead of thanking God for the light and 
knowledge He has sent them, they cry out, full of trouble and 
anguish; alas, what have I done? Would that I had not touched 
that wretched book! that I had not remained to hear that ser- 
mon! I might still be enjoying my former peace of mind. 
That book, that sermon has filled me with scruples and anxi- 
eties; I must not tamper with such things any more. And, my 
dear brethren, there are even some who, although they are 
otherwise very diligent in hearing sermons, if some truth is pro- 
posed to them that does not suit their fancies, because it disturbs 
their consciences and fills them, not with scruples but with a 
well-founded anxiety, give up going to sermons altogether, and 
even advise others to do the same, telling them that sermons 

' Sclo opera tua, quia nomen babes quod vivas, et mortuus es.— Apoc. 111. 1. 
' Me occldistis amicl.— Herat. 1. 2. Ep. ad Flor. 



•Ip^il* ,'» " 




loo T:^^ /;z/j^ />^^^^ ^^ Sinful Conscience, 

are not good for anything, except to fill the mind with useless 
fears. Then they who were not at the sermon are glad they 
remained away, so as not to be disturbed. How strangely those 
people act! Suppose that a traveller is on his way to Treves; 
he loses his way, and meets a peasant who asks him where he is 
going to. To Treves, answers the traveller. Oh, says the other, 
yon are altogether out of your way, my friend! You must turn 
back and go by that other road, or you will never reach your 
journey's end. The traveller is very sorry to hear that he" has 
gone astray; but he nevertheless thanks the peasant for his 
timely warning, and is glad to be put on the right road. But if, 
instead of that, he were to gramble and say all sorts of hard 
things of the peasant, because he had shown him his mistake and 
put him right, would you not^look on him as a madman? True, 
if he were not wai-ned, he would go on contentedly on the wrong 
way; but where would he come to at last? 
r^epiomb!e ^ ^^^^^'^' T^oxi'e.^ that we are! Woe to us, if we put down as 
state of scruples the Avell-grounded anxieties and warnings of conscience 
with which God in His mercy enlightens our culpable ignorance, 
and exhorts us to amend our lives, that He may bring us back 
on the right road to heaven, from which we have wandered so 
far astray! Woe to us, if we hate and shun those lights and ad- 
monitions, and love and seek our own blindness and darkness! 
We have reason to pity the wretched state of those sinners who 
knowingly and wilfully continue in sin year after year, without 
doing penance, for they are blindly hurrying straight to hell; 
and in truth, their condition is sad enough tt) make one shed 
tears of blood. But after all, do you not think that they who 
try to lull their consciences to sleep, that they may enjoy a false 
peace, are in a still more deplorable state? The former know 
their misery; the latter do not; the former feel the gnawing of 
remorse; the latter are free from it; and therefore it is much 
easier for the grace of God to move the former to repent of the 
sins they know they have committed, than the latter, who do 
not know their sins, and do not wish to know them. 

Ah Christians, either we are in earnest about going to heaven, 
or we are not! Do we not wish to go there? Then we can live 
as we please; but our damnation will be all the deeper hereafter, 
in proportion to the greater number of sins we commit. Are 
we determined to gain the eternal joys of heaven? Then, why 
do we try to hide the truth from ourselves, and to avoid the 
light? We are false to ourselves, but shall we be able to deceive 

The False Peace of a Sinful Conscience. 


and exhor- 
tation to 
seek true 
peace of 

the all-knowing God, who sees the heart, and who has already 
assured us that He will search Jerusalem with a lantern, that is, 
tliat He will subject to a most rigorous scrutiny even the holiest 
works of the just? AYhat better shall we be for having enjoyed 
a few years of false peace of conscience, as a result of our efforts 
at self-deception, if at the end of our lives, as will really be the 
case, our consciences will fling off the cloak of deceit, and show 
us how guilty we are, and will accuse and condemn us before 
mir impartial Judge? No, my dear brethren, what we wisli for 
let us wish for it honestly before God and our own consciences! 
As Our Lord says, " whilst you have the light, believe in the 
light, that you may be the children of the light." ' While we 
have and can have the light, we must receive it, and believe in 
it, and love and seek the truth; but if we are in doubt joi- anxiety 
we must ask advice from one who will tell us the truth, nor 
must we think, say, or do anything against the command of 
God, the Christian law; so that our consciences mav truly give 
us testimony '^that we are the sons of God,"^ and that we may 
thus enjoy real peace of heart which will be followed by eternal 
peace in the kingdom of heaven. Amen. 

Amtlm Introduction to the same sermon for the Third Sunday 

ill Lent, 


Cum fort is armatus custodit atrium suum, in pace sunt ea 
qncB possidet.— Luke xi. 21. 

"When a sti'ong man armed keepeth his court; those things 
are in peace which he possesseth.'* 

That can with truth be said of the man Avho is desirous of his 
eternal salvation, and who carefully tries to keep his conscience 
free from all sin, and to preserve constantly the friendship of 
God. ''^ Tliose things are in peace which he possesseth;" he 
enjoys a most sweet peace of heart, than which there is nothing 
more desirable in this life, and he can confidently and with his 
whole heart rejoice in the Lord. Such, Christians, etc.,-co?i- 
tinues as above. 

On the great advantages of true peace of conscience, see 
several sermons in the following Fourth Part, 

^ Dum lucem habetis, oredite in lucetn, ut mil lucis sitis.— John xiL 36 
' Quod sumus fllil Del — Rom. viii. 16. 



I02 Voluntary Ignorance to find Peace of Conscience, 

Voluntary Ignorance to find Peace of Conscience. 103 




In what this ignorance consists, how it is sought, and what an 
unhappy state is that of those who seek it. — Preached 07i jl'liit- 


Lux venit in mundum, et dilexerunt homines magis ienehras 
quam htcemj erant enim eoruiii mala opera. — John. iii. 19. 

*^ The light is come into the world, and men loved darkness 
rather than the light; for their works were evil.' 



Of the twenty-fonr hours the sun takes to accomplish its daily 
journey, the most unpleasant and disagreeable are those of the 
dark night; for then children are terrified, the healthy wrap 
themselves up in bed, the sick groan and sigh, wishing that the 
gloomy night were passed, the wild animals creep into their dens, 
and all creatures are, as it were, dumb and blind. Yet there are 
some birds, namely owls and bats, that cannot bear the light of 
day, and love the dark night, during which they fly about in quest 
of food. Hence they are hateful to other birds, and are pursued 
by them during the day. Is it possible, my dear brethren, that 
amongst reasoning beings there are owls and bats to be found? 
Yes; for Jesus Christ Himself, the Eternal truth, expressly says 
so: " The light is come into world, and men loved darkness 
rather than the light." And why? ^' For their works were evil; '* 
they are ashamed to let their works see the light of day, and 
therefore they seek and love the dark night; not, indeed, al- 
ways our natural night, which could conceal their evil deeds from 
the eyes of men ; but the gloom and darkness of their own souls, 
that they may conceal their evil deeds from their own con- 
sciences, and solive on. in sin undisturbed. St. Thomas of Aquin 
distinguishes three kinds of spiritual darkness and blindness 
which men are fond of: the first is a wilfully sought blindness, 
which is in itself an inexcusable sin; the second is a culpable 
blindness, which is the occasion of many sins, and is there- 

fore also inexcusable; the thiijd is a blindness into which God 
sometimes allows man to fall, and it is the greatest punishment 
of sin. To-day I sliall explain the first of these, namely, that 
wilfully sought blindness or ignorance which is in itself a sin. • 

Plan of Discourse. 

1)1 tohat this blindness consists, how it is sought, aiid what an 
unhappy state is that of those who seek it. Such is the ivhole sub- 
ject of the present instruction. 

Come, Holy Ghost, enlighten our hearts and inflame our 
wills, that we may always seek Thy brilliant light, receive it 
with eagerness, and live according to it. This we beg of Thee 
through the merits of Thy virginal Spouse Mary, and of our 
holy guardian angels. 

By the first kind of wilfully sought blindness, which is in it- i^^^^twii- 
self sinful, the Angelic Doctor understands nothing else than a blindness 
wilful ignorance of divine things, or a deliberate negligence on consists, 
the part of him who does not wish or fears to be instructed in 
many things that concern faith, the divine law, his state and 
condition in life, his conscience, and his eternal salvation, lest 
the knowledge of the truth should convince him that he is 
bound to do more good, or to avoid more evil, than he is gener- 
ally accustomed or now intends to do or to avoid. A man of 
this kind is one of those wicked people of whom holy Job com- 
plains that " they spend their days in wealth, and in a moment 
they go down to hell. Who have said to God: depart from us, 
we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways.'' ^ We do not wish to 
have an exact knowledge of Thy commandments; the gloom in 
which we have hitherto lived is light enough for us; even if we 
are inexperienced in many things, and are often ignorant of the 
duties of our state of life, " yet we are at peace, and can act ac- 
cording to our good will and pleasure. We are not subject to 
the anxieties that harass those scrupulous souls who are always 
trying to discern good from evil, and who make a sin and a hell 
in theii own fancies of every little amusement they indulge in. 
The Prophet David says of such people: "He would not under- 
stand that he might do well,"'' that is, they do not wish to learn 
what is good, lest they should have to do it. Nay, as St. Jerome 
says, " They rejoice in self-deception, and look on it as a ben- 

* Ducunt in bonis dies suos. et in puncto ad Infema descendant. Qui dixerunt Deo: Re- 
cede a nobis, et sclentiam viarum tuarum nolumus.— Job xxi. 13, 14. 
' Noluit iatelUgere ut bene ageret.— Ps. xxxv. 4. 

I04 Volu7itary Ig7iorance to find Peace of Conscience, 

efit to delude themselves/' ' because they are thus more at ease 
and do not so often feel the sting of conscience. 
There are Bi>t. my dear brethren, is it necessary for nie to speak of sucli 

m&ny who ^*a 

love that people in a Catholic city? Is it possible for a man to sink to 
Ignorance, sucli depths of blindness and depravity, as to wish to shun the 
light, lest he should see the truth, and to have no desire to learn 
how to distinguish good from evil, that he may be more free to 
do evil? Alas, there are only too many cases of the kind in these 
days of ours! Kor do I alkide now to wilful heretics, who at 
once close their eyes to the light, and avoid the trouble of mak- 
ing farther inquiries, after they have received the light of grace 
to see the evident truth of our holy faith, and to have well- 
grounded doubts at least, regarding the palpable errors of the 
sect to which they belong; and they act thus, lest the knowledge 
of the truth should force them to embrace another faith and to 
change their mode of life; a change that human respect, an in- 
ordinate love of temporal things, a desire of their own ease and 
comfort, and a fear of difficulties have hitherto prevented them 
from making. 

Even amongst Christians (who could believe it?), amongst 
Catholics, there are owls and bats who shun the light, seek the 
darkness, and love their own ignorance and blindness. And 
these are half-hearted Catholics, who have barely the name o^ 
Christians, who deliberately continue in siii from day to day, 
from month to month, from year to year, without confession or 
repentance; or, if they do go to confession, it is only for the sake 
of appearance; for they never really open their hearts, nor dis- 
close the maladies of their souls; or else thev seek a confessor 
who, as they think, has no experience, or who lacks courage and 
zeal enough to reprove their vices and remind them of their 
obligations. And why do they act thus? Our Lord gives the 
reason in to-day's Gospel: ^*' For their works were evil,'' and they 
wish to continue in them undisturbed. They are afraid of being 
warned of their duties, lest they should be obliged in future to 
mortify their inordinate appetites, to restore ill-gotten gains, to 
avoid the proximate occasion of sin, to renounce unlawful cus- 
toms, or to give up the company of that person with whom they 
Lave hitherto lived in unlawful intercourse. It does not at all 
suit them to do any of these things, and therefore they do not 
wish to see the truth, or to be taught it, or warned of it by 

> Gaadent od clrcumventionem suam, et illuslonem pro beneflcio ponunt. 




Voluntary Ignorance to find Peace of Conscience. 105 

They are those who, although conscience and right reason 
now and then inspire them with gra\e doubts as to whether a 
certain thing is lawful or not, yet pay no heed to those doubts 
and dismiss from their ninids all anxious thoughts and divine 
inspirations, lest they might find out that what they wish and 
intend to do is not right. And this they do over and over 
again, until they have stifled the cries of conscience and made 
themselves insensible to its gnawings. They are those who, for 
the same reasons, refuse to listen to good advice, and select as 
tlieir counsellors people without candor, exjDerience, or conscience, 
who are addicted to the same vices, and are of the same opinions 
as themselves. They are afraid to go to a sermon, for fear they 
should hear tlie truth, or have their consciences disturbed, or be 
reminded of the duties of their state. There is a certain nation, 
savs Ambrosinos, called Phanesians, whose ears are so Ions: and 
broad tliat they cafrTTe^down on one as on a bed, and cover 
themselves with The other as with a quilt; thus, wherever they 
are, they can rest comfortably during the night. I do not dare 
to assert that this is a trae stoiy, although it is related by differ- 
ent authors, but I am quite sure that, to enjoy real peace of 
conscience, we must have good ears to hear the word of God, in. 
order to be instructed in the duties and obligations of bur state 
of life. But those people make a diiferent use of their ears to 
secure peace of conscience; they close them tightly, so as not to 
hear any good advice that might disturb them in their evil 
ways. Hence the only effect the trutli has on them is to excite 
them to anger and hatred, so that even the pulpit itself arouses 
their enmitv. 

If they happen to hear a sermon that touches on their secret 
vices, tliev act like the 2fOvernor Felix, of whom we read in the 
Acts of the Apostles. This Felix was a great sinner; he was 
living in adultery with Brasilia, whom he had taken away from 
her lawful husband; he was an unjust judge, who condemned 
the innocent, and absolved the guilty, because he allowed him- 
self to be influenced by bribes; he employed assassins, revenged 
himself in secret, shed innocent blood, and was afraid of no 
man. St. Paul, laden with chains, was brought before him to 
be tried, and knowing well the kind of man he had to deal 
with, he said nothing in his own defence, but with a holy free- 
dom spoke to him of his duty as a judge, of the necessity of 
observing chastity, and of the severity of the judgment of God 
that was to come. Felix, conscious of the impurity and injus- 

Who do not 
as& w*3en In 
doubt, n^r 
wish to hear 
pood advice 
or sermons. 

Who pay no 
regard to 
what they 

frfi fr vm itil% 

ic6 Volmttary Ignorance to find Peace of Conscience, 

tice of which lie was gnilt}^ began to tremble with fear; bnt 
instead of listening further to what the Apostle had to say to 
move him to repent and. amend his wicked life, he stopped him 
short and told him to go away. '' And as he treated of justice, 
and chastity, and of the judgment to come, Felix, being terrified, 
answered: For this time go thy way."' Such is the way in 
which those half-hearted Christians act. If you warn them of 
the dangerous state of their souls, they grow tired of listening 
at once, and if they cannot leave the church wliile the sermon is 
going on they endeavor to turn away their thoughts, so that 
what is said may make no impression on them. If they happen 
to take up a book that treats of the four Last Things, they 
throw it down at once, saying that it is no book for them be- 
cause it makes them uneasy. They are very willing to take part 
in processions, to say the Rosary, or to be present at benediction, 
BO long as they are not likely to hear the word of God; because 
they must practise some Christian devotion or other, and devo- 
tions of this kind are least likely to interfere with the false peace 
of their sinful hearts, 
preachere,^" If any one at home speaks to them about what the preacher 
that they Said, and how he inveighed against a certain vice, or de- 
Ssturted ^^^'^^^^ ^^^® torments of hell, or the difficulty of entering on the 
iDtiieir narrow way that leads to heaven, etc., 0, let him preach away, 
wickedness, they will say; that preacher has no control over himself; he 
does not know how to speak to people, nor to make the neces- 
sary distinction between respectable people and the common 
herd, whose way of life differs so much, etc. what blind- 
ness I as if there were one law, one gospel for the rich, and 
another for the poor! as if there were one way to heaven for the 
great, and another for the lowly! as if God were so influenced 
by human respect that He wishes to be less feared, honored, 
loved, and served by the former, than by the latter! But they 
"will find out all about that by and by! Meanwhile, however, 
they do not wish to be told the truth, and therefore they hate 
and despise preachers, or else they go to hear only those who, 
as they know by experience, will not disturb them nor interfere 
with their false peace of mind. They are, as the Prophet Isaias 
Bays: '* Lying children, children that will not hear the law of 
God; who say to the seers: See not; and to them that behofd. 
Behold not for us those things that are right; speak unto ns 

> Dlsputante autem Ulo de Justitla et castltate, et de judlcio future, tremefactus Felix 
respondit: quod nunc attlnet, vade.— Acts xxiv. 25. 

Voluntary Ignorance to find Peace of Coiiscience. 107 

pleasant things, see errors for us;"' you can preach lies and 
falsehood to us, that we may continue our present mode of life 
undisturbed. And thus they do whatever is pleasing to their 
own comfort or sensuality, and they sin boldly without that 
anxiety of conscience they would feel if they were desirous of 
knowing the truth, and if they were diligent in hearing the 
word of God in sermons. 

When a man is going to lay down to sleep, he first closes all shown by a 
the doors and windows of his room, blows out the light, and ^ 
then covers himself up in bed. There is nothing more annoy- 
ing to one who wishes to enjoy a sound sleep, than for some 
one to come in and shake him about, and hold a light before 
his eyes; oh, oh, he will say, turning away his face, take away 
that light! I want to go to sleep! There may be loud talk- 
ing or laughing going on in the room, but it does not trouble ^^ — • 
him much; how is it then that the light has such power to 
annoy him? ^cause there is nothing that hinders sleep so 
much as to have a brilliant light shining in one's eyes. And 
that is just the reason why a Christian who loves the darkness 
hates and flics the word of God, and cannot bear exhortation 
or instruction. He lies buried in the deep sleep of sin; he finds 
therein a false repose and the j)leasures of sensuality, nor does 
he wish to be awakened or aroused. The light of truth, the 
word of God. is that which is most hostile to this sleep; it shines 
too strongly in his eyes; it calls out into his ears: '' Rise, thou 
that sleepest! " " and therefore he cannot bear it. Away with the 
light! he says in thought; away with preaching and exhorting! 
I do not want it! 

And how could the proud man bear to have Christian hu- Therefore 
mility and modesty constantly preached to him in those words [He aSri^-* 
of Our Lord: *' Amen, 1 say to you, unless you be converted, cious, and 
and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kino-- *'-*^"^" 
aomof heaven;"' ''God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace not bear the 
to the huinble. " * Oh, a light of that kind is far too strong for "^''^' 
his eyes! It would disturb him too much, and so, away with it! 
How could a vain worldling, who lives according to the luxurious 
usages and maxims of the world, listen patiently to the exhorta- 

^ FIlll mendaces, fllii nolentes audire lejrem Dei, qui dicunt vldentibus ; nolite videre ; 
'^i aspicientibus : nolite asplcere nobis ea quae recta sunt; loquimini nobis placentia, 
videte nobis errores.— Is. xxx. 9, 10. 

" Surge, qui dorrals.— Epbes. v. 14. 

' Amen dico vobls, nisi conversi fueritis et eflaciamlnl sicut parvuli non Inlrabitls in 
regnum coelorum.— Matt, xvlil. 3. 

* Deus superbis reslstlt, bumllibus autem dat gratiam.— James Iv. C. 

io8 Voluntary Ignora^ice to find Peace of Conscience. 

tion: '-'Love not the Avorld, nor the things which are in the 
world;'' ' for lie that loves the world is an enemy of God? 
No, that light is too troublesome; away with it! How could 
the nnjiist and avaricious man bear to be told that he must 
make restitutiou of his ill-gotten gains, or else he will lose 
heaven; that he must ''make to himself friends of the mammon 
of iniquity, by being generous to the poor and needv, so that, 
wheii he shall fail, they may receive him into everlasting dwell- 
ings."' '-Thou fool, this night do they require thy soul of 
thee; and where shall those things be which thou hast pro- 
vided?"' Oh, that light shines too strong in his eyes! Take it 
away at once! IIow could the impure man, who indulges his 
carnal appetites, bear to hear any one constantly repeating to 
him, in the words of St. John the Baptist to kiug Herod: '-It 
is not lawful for theo to have thy brother's wife;"* it is not 
lawful for you to remain any longer in that house, in the com- 
pany of that person; it is not lawful for you to go to that house, 
that person; even an unchaste look, or sign, or a libidinous kiss 
given or permitted, or an impure thought deliberately enter- 
tained, is a mortal sin? Away at once with such an annoying 
light; there is no possibility of resting as long as it is glaring in 

one's eves! 

Ncrthevin- Haw can the vindictive man, whose whole thought is revenue. 

dictive tho . o © ? 

intemper- 1^^^^^ Calmly to the express command of Our Lord, '' I say to 
ate, or the you: '' Love your enemies; do good to them that hate you; and 
pray for them that persecute and calumniate you." ? * '' So also 
shall my heavenly Father do to you, if you forgive not every one 
■ his brother from your hearts." ° Unless you forgive your brother, 
and that too from your heart, neither will your heavenly 
Father forgive you your sins? That light is too strong for his 
eyes; it must be put out or taken away at once. How can the in- 
temperate man, who drinks to excess, and thereby gives occasion 
to many sins, understand the threat of theiioly Apostle, St. Paul, 
"Nor drunkards shall possess the kingdom of God;"^ or the 

> Nolite dilipere niundura, neque ea qufc In raundo sunt.— I. John II. 15. 

- Faeite vobis anilcos de mamrnonainiquilatis, ut cnm defeceritis, recipiant vos inaeterna 
tabernacula.— Luke xvi 9. 

2 StuJte, hac nocte animam tuam repetent a te; quae autem parasti, cujus erunt?— Luke 
xll. 20. 

* Non licet tibl hal)ere uxorem fratiis tul.— Mark vl. 18. 

5 Ej?o autem dico vobis, dilipite inlmicos vestros ; benefacite his qui oderunt vos ; et 
orato pro perseqnentlbus et calumuiantihus vos.— Matt. v. 44. 

" Sic et Pater meus coelestls faclet vobis, si non remlseritis unusquisque f ratrl suo de cor- 
dlbus vestris.- Matt, xvlii. 35, * 

' Neque ebriosi reffnum del possidebunt.— L Cor. vt 10, 

Voluntary Ignormice to find Peace of Conscience, 109 

exhortation of St. Peter, "Be sober and watch."* Xo, a 
light of that kind interferes too much with his sleep! How can 
the man who is slothful and lazy in the service of God, or who 
devotes all his thoughts and cares to temporal concerns, or 
whose whole idea is to lead an idle, easy, comfortable life, how- 
can he find any meaning in the words of Christ, " The king- 
dom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away."' 
Broad is the road that leads to desti'uction, and many there 
are who enter thereon; narrow is the way that leads to life, and 
few there are who find it; strive then, do violence to yourselves, 
that you may enter by the narrow gate. " If any man will come 
after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow 
Me." ' Alas, that troublesome light is too painful for eyes and 
ears! Away with it! they all say: we do not want it, w^e do not 
wish to know anything about it, that we may sleep on undis- 
turbed in our ignorance. To all these people one might say 
what a certain English nobleman once said to a heretical pririT 
cess; he was pushing her rather hard in an argument on some 
matter of faith, and she said to him, 0, let us change the 
conversation, and talk of something more agreeable; I do not 
want to be troubled by scruples or anxieties of conscience. 
Madam, answered the nobleman, you prefer to remain in the 
most dangerous ignorance, rather than feel any anxiety of con- 
science; very well, then! continue in that ignorance, and 3^011 
will be lost forever without anxiety of conscience! And this, 
says St. John Olimacus, is a real trick of the devil, who, like a 
■ thief that does not attempt to steal until all the lights are out 
and every one in the house is asleep, takes away the light from 
men, and deprives them of sound teaching and of good inspira- 
tions and exhortations, that he may all the more securely steal 
away their souls, keep them in the sleep of sin into which they 
have sunk, jind at last drag them dow^n to the eternal darkness 
of hell, out of the darkness that they have wilfully loved and 
sought for during life. 

But, we might well ask, how is it possible for those Christians How these 
to live in peace and undisturbed when they are leadins" vicious P^P^^^'^y*®. 

1; o mi • • ., ,. calm their 

lives.'' iheir own consciences must necessarily disquiet them, consciences^ 
and exhort them to amend their ways. Quite true, my dear 
brethren; but do you know ho^v they manage matters with their 

* Sobril estote et viffilate.— I. Pet. v. 8. 

* Refnium coelorum vim patitur, et violent! rapiunt lllnd — Matt. xl. 12. 

' Si quis vult post me venire, abneget semetipsum, et toJlat crucem suam, et sequatur 

no Voluntary Igiiorance to find Peace of Coiiscience, 

' consciences? They act as a man who, being seated at table and 
wishing to finish his ineal quietly, acts towards his dog. The 
hungry animal, seeing the food brought in, does his best to let his , 
master see that he is hungry; he barks and jumps from one side 
to the other, and gives no rest until he has attracted atten- 
tion. At last his master throws him a bare bone. And will 
that satisfy him? will he be contented to gnaw at it, although 
there is not a bit of meat on it? this is not much, to appease 
his hunger on a bare bone; yet it is enough to quiet the dog; 
lie gnaws away, and neither barks nor leaps about any more, 
60 tiiat his master can finish his meal in peace. In the same 
way do those wilfully blind people act. There is no doubt that 
their bad consciences, like barking and leaping dogs, often 
trouble them; but they throw a bone to the dog to keep him 
quiet. And what is that? Their own wilful ignorance. I am 
not guilty of sin, they say to themselves, unless I know before- 
hand that what I am doing is unlawful: but I know and wish 
to know nothing about it; I am not certain that this or that is 
forbidden, nor do I mean to take the trouble of finding out; 
therefore I can do it without committing sin. But what a 
futile, worthless, and empty excuse that is! The fact that you 
have wilfully avoided the light will not helj) you in the least at 
the judgment-seat of God! No matter; the bone is throAvn to 
the dog to keep him quiet; the empty excuse keeps the con- 
science silent for a time at least. 
They are in Alas, savs St Bernard, how miserable and unhappy the state 

a very un- > ^ ' ^ i r^ 

happy state, of those i:)eople! For the soul is never in a v»orse or more des- 
perate condition, than when the sinner is without remorse of 
conscience. 'There is a conscience that is bad, and at the 
same time peaceful; and as there is nothing worse than it, so 
also there is nothing more miserable. " * If you feel no remorse, 
then there is no check on your sins, nothing to move you to re- 
pentance and amendment; *' that is. the conscience which has 
no fear of God, no regard for man. and which, once it has sunk 
into the depth of sin, becomec utterly callous. " " And how, in 
God's name, can one do any good for sinners of that kind? A 
blind man, who knows aiid acknowledges that he is blind, be- 
wails and deplores his affliction; he would willingly give all he 

* Est conscientia mala et tranqullla, qua slcut nihil est pejus, Ita nihil est infelictus.— St 
Bern. 1. de conscientia. 

' Haec ilia est, quae nee Deum timet, nee homlnem reveretur; quae, cum venerlt In profun- 
dum malorum, contemnlt. 

Voluntary Ignorance to find Peace of Conscie^ice. 1 1 1 

has if he could thereby be enabled once more to see the light of 
day; he walks about cautiously, groping with his hands and feel- 
ing his way, lest he should stumble against something and 
hurt himself; he allows himself to be led about by others, that 
he may not fall into a ditch and break his neck or his limbs. 
But those sinners are blind and ignorant, and they rejoice in 
their blindness and ignorance, because they can fall into the 
ditch without being aware of it^ every hour of the day they get a 
severe fall, and they do not feel U; they inflict mortal wounds on 
their souls, but they do not wince under them; they are in 
imminent danger of eternal death, and they know it not. They 
are well aware that they are blind, but tlioy will not allow any 
one to lead them. We read in the Fourth Book of Kings that, at 
the prayers of the Prophet Eliseus, the soldiers of the king of 
Syria were struck blind, so that they did not know where they 
were going to. " Strike, I beseech Thee,'' said the Prophet to 
the Lord, ''this people with blindness. And the Lord struck 
them with blindness, according to the words of Eliseus. " ' 
Blinded as they were, they suffered themselves to be led about 
by the Prophet, until he brought them into Samaria, into the 
midst of the Israelites, their enemies; then Eliseus cried out to 
God: "Lord, open the eyes of these men, that thev may see. 
And the Lord opened their eyes, and they saw themselve:; to be 
in the midst of Samaria," ' surrounded by their enemies. There 
you have a true picture of the unhappy condition of those wil- 
fully blind people. Where do they not allow the devil and 
their own. evil inclinations to lead them? And what a danger- 
ous road they are on! For they are going straight to hell, 
where their enemies are awaiting them. And yet they are per- 
fectly at ease; they know not and care not to know anything of 
their danger, for they have blinded themselves, and they love 
their blindness; but at the hour of death their eyes will be • 
^ opened, and they will find themselves in hell, in the midst of 
. their enemies. According to a certain author this is the mystic 
meaning of the event recorded in the Book of Kings. " Thus,'* 
he says, "sinners who are now blind to heayenly things will 
find at the end of their lives that they are surrounded by the 
enemies of their souls* but the eye of their mind will be opened 

' Perciite, obsecro, jrentem banc caeclta'te. Percussitque eos Domlnus, ne videreut, juxta 
verbum lilisel.— IV. Kings vi. 18. 

■■' Domine aperi oculos istorum ut videant. Aperultque Domlnus oculos eorum, et vlde- 
rant se esse In medio Samariae.— Ibid. 20. 

i-|fliin>"iM-|-tian^ii fnttr 

112 Voluntary Ignorance to find Peace cf Conscience, 


too late. " ^ Alas for those unhappy people I Would that a 
prophet were to arise, before it goes too far with them, to re- 
store them their sight, that the}' may see what they do not wisl/ 
to see now; that they may know they are already in Samaria^ 
that is, in the hands of their most cruel enemies, the devils, fet- 
tered every day with still heavier chains, and. being led on the 
way to hell I '' Lord, open the eyes of these men, that they may 

And there is 


But what am I saying? Why do I wish that a prophet should 

no way of j o ^ — 



arise for them? There are prophets enough who are willing to 
enlighten them, but they do not wish to be enlightened, and 
they avoid tlie prophets. How then are they to be brought back 
to God, and to be moved to repentance and amendment? I 
know not; there is no means of moving them. Other and even 
great sinners are often led to repent by reading a spiritual book, 
or the lives of the saints; but they never think of taking np a 
book of that kind, lest their consciences should be disturbed. 
Other sinners are often converted by a conversation on heavenly 
things, or by hearing a sermon; they never go to a sermon, and 
they hate all salutary exhortations that might alarm or make them 
uneasy. The first step on the way to eternal salvation is to seek 
this way and to desire earnestly to find it; but they do not want 
to know anything about it, and how can they enter on it? The 
blind man of Jericho, as St. John Chrysostom says, would never 
have recovered his sight if he had not desired and longed for it; 
when he was told that Jesns of Nazareth was passing by, he 
cried out in a loud voice, ''Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on 
What wilt thou that I do to thee? " ' asked Our Lord. 


»» 9 a 

"But he said: Lord that I may see."' But these other blind 

people, what do they ask for? Instead of saying. Lord, that I 

• may see; enlighten my understanding; have pity on me, that I 

may know my misery; they cry out in the desires of their hearts, 

Lord, that I may not seel I do not want the light; let me not 

know my faults and sins; keep from me the knowledge of the 

miserable and dangerous state of my soul, that I may not be 

overwhelmed by fear, anguish, and sadness! 

Not even In Deplorable indeed is your condition! But, if you do not wish 

11^ ^*^ to change, go on in your blindness and ignorance! The time 

» sic peccatores ad coplrstia cceci In extremo vitae suae ab bostibus undlque conclusi 
serius mentis suae oculos aperient. 

2 Jesu, fill David, miserere roel.— Luke xviil. .38. 

3 Quid tibl vis faciam?— Ibid. 41. 

« At llle dixit: Domlne, ut \ideam. —Ibid. 

Vohmtary Ignorance to fi^id Peace of Conscie?ice. 1 13 

will come when you will seek the light, and will not find it, and 
after you are gone, people will pray, and sing, and sigli for you, 
''Eternal rest give to them, Lord;" but in vain; for as you 
have rejected the li^ht here, you must lie forever hereafter in 
exterior darkness. Nor will your eyes be opened until 3^ou are 
in Samaria, in hell, and there vou will know what a mistake vou 
have made, and will see that you are in perpetual imprison- 
ment. '' He that hateth reproof shall die," ' says the Wise Man; 
eternal death is already prepared for him. Hear the fate that 
Job foretells for those wlio say to God: "Depart from us, we 
desire not the knowledge of Thy ways." ^ Wliat will happen to 
them? " They shall be as chaff before the face of the wind, and 
as ashes which the whirlwind scattereth." ^ His eyes shall see 
his own destruction, and he shall drink of the wrath of the 
Almighty."" But when? Will they see their mistake in their 
last moments, when death is staring them in the face? Not by 
any means, unless God works a miracle, which they have little 
reason to hope for, who persistently rejected the light during 
life. They will die in the same blindness and ignorance in 
which they lived. Hear their last despairing sighs, as they are 
described by the Holy Ghost in the Book of Wisdom: " There- 
fore we have erred from the way of truth, and the light of 
justice hath not sinned unto us, and the sun of understanding 
hath not risen upon us; we wearied ourselves in the way of 
iniquity and destruction, but the way of the Lord we have not 
known," " because we did not wish to know it. Now we know 
that our former ignorance will not help us before the judgment- 
seat of God; we are betrayed, because we have wilfully betrayed 
ourselves. "AVe have been able to show no mark of virtue; but 
are consumed in our wickedness." " And when and where will 
they lament in those terms? On their death-bed? No; "Such 
things as these the sinners said in hell." ' ; 

God of goodness! save us all from ihis terrible blindness! conclusion 
Christians, I hope this sermon is not for any of you, inasmuch ^"^ ^^^^^' 

tation to 

' Qui iricrepationes odit, morletur. — Prnv. xv. 10. 

- Recede a nobis et scientiam viarum tuarum nolumus.— Job xxi. 14. 

^ Erunt slcut paleoe ante faciem venti, et sicut favilla quam turbo dispergit.— Ibid. 18. 

* Vldebunt oculi ejus Interfectlonem suam, et de furore Omnipotentis blbet. -Ibul. 30. 

* Erpro erravimus a via veiltatis, et ju.stitiae lumeri non hixit nobis, et sol intellljTentlsb 
noil est ortus nobis. Lassati sunius in via iniquitatis ct i>erditionis, .... viam autem 
Domini ignoravirnus — Wisd. v. 0, 7. 

° Vlrtutis quidera nullum signura valuimus ostendere ; in mallgnitate autem nostra con- 
surap'l sumus.— Ibid. 13. 
^ Talia dixerunt iu Inferno hi, qui peccaverunt.— Ibid. 14. 


1 14 Culpable Ignorance as a Cause 0/ ATany Sins 
P seek and ac- ^^ y^^^ ^^, lieuriiig the word of God, are zealoiislv seekincr tiu« 

/ cept the T 1 ^ o '- 

) divine light. 1 J 5»t; and the knowledge of tlie way that lea<]s to ])eavcnl 


Therefore, for your advantage, I conchide, in tlie words of Christ 
in the Gospel of St. John, " Whilst you have tlie light, believe 
in the light, that you may be the children of the light. ' Go on 
as you are going, and be guided in all your actions by no oilier 
rule but the eternal truths; be not misled by evil inclinations 
and carnal desires, nor by the false maxims of the vain world, 
'• that the darkness overtake you not;'' "^ that yon may not lose 
the light and be plunged into horrible gloom. Thou, God of 
light, art the way, the truth, and the life; give to and pi-eserve in 
us all a heart obedient to and desirous of hearing salutary 
instructions and exhortations; enlighten by Thy word the dark- 
ness of our understanding; impel our sluggish wills, that we may 
always know what is pleasing to Thy holy will, and fultll it with 
all our strength, whilst we avoid above every other imaginable 
evil what we know to be displeasing to Thee. And grant that 
we may thus walk constantly in Thy shining light on the way to 
heaven, without ever straying from the right path, until, when 
the dangers of this life shall have passed, we enjoy, with Thy 
chosen friends, the eternal light 01 Thy glory. Amen. 



What culpable ignorance is; how common it is, and how inex^ 
cusable before God. — Preached on the Tuesday after Pentecost. 


HU antem non cognovertint quid loqneretvr eis. — John x. G. 
*' But they nnderstood not Avhat He spoke to them." 


It is not surprising that the Scribes and Pl^arisees did not un- 
derstand Avhat Our Lord meant by the similes lie made use of. 
For they were blind to heavenly things, as Christ Himself said on 

* Bum lucem habetis credite \n lucem, ut fllil lucis sitls.— John xll. 36. 
' Utnon vos tenebrte comprehendant.— Ibid. 35. 

Culpable Ignorance as a Cause of Many Sins* 115 

another occasion, '^ Let them alone ; they are blind, and leaders 
of the blind. " ^ Their vices had blinded them, and they were 
hardened in wickedness. " But what does surprise me, my dear 
brethren, is this, that there are amongst Catholics, amongst the 
members of the one true Church who are illumined by the light 
of the Holy Ghost, and are not yet so hardened as the Pharisees 
fo^rmerly were, some who are so blind, so ignorant in many 
things that concern the law of God and their own salvation, 
that they do not understand what God and His servants say to • 

them. But the fact is, they do not wish to understand; they 
are blind and ignorant, because they deliberately seek and love 
blindness and ignorance, that they may continue to lead sinful 
lives without beinsr troubled bv remorse. Yesterdav I bewailed 
the unhappy state of those people. To-day I shall describe the 
second kind of spiritual blindness, namely culpable ignorance, 
which is the cause of many sins. 

Plan of Discourse. 

^\hat this cidpahU ignorance is, hoto common it is amongst 
men, and hoio inexcusahle it is he/ore God. Such is the subject 
of the 2)resent instruction. ' ' 

That we may avoid this ignorance, and keep Thy law in truth, 
give us, Holy Ghost, Thy light and Thy grace, without which 
we can do nothing; this we ask of Thee through the intercession 
of ^lary and of our holy guardian angels. 

The ignorance of which we speak consists in this, that one ^"^ "^^*^ ^°" 
would often refrain from doing, thinking, or saying certain ipnorant-e 
things, if he were aware of certain circumstances connected with consists, 
them; if he knew that those thoughts, words, or actions were 
unlawful and offensive to God, or else that he would not omit 
certain things if he knew for certain that he was in duty bound 
to do them under pain of. sin; all which circumstances, how- 
ever, he could and should know. And what is the meaning of 
that? He could and should know ? Now pray be attentive to 
what I am going to say. It happens, for instance, that a fast- 
day or a holyday occurs during the week, but there is one in- 
dividual who never thinks of it, and he eats meat on the fast- 
da;f, or else he does not hear Mass on the holvdav, and it is 
only afterwards that he learns what kind of a day it is. The 
question is, has that man committed sin by eating meat, or by 

* Slnlte illos ; coeci sunt, at duces caecorum.— Matt. xy. 14. 

1 1 6 Culpable Ignorance as a Cause of Many Sins, 

In what cul 
pable igno- 

not hearing Mass? Xo, I answer, because lie knew nothing 
about it. But you say, ho could have known about it? Quite 
true, absolutely speaking; he could have known about it, if 
somebody had given him warning beforehand, or if he had a 
reasonable doubt and suspicion concerning the matter. But, 
since there was neither warning nor doubt in the case, he could 
not and was not bound to know anything further, so that his 
ignorance was inculpable, and it frees him from all sin in tlie 
siglit of God. 

On the other hand, there is another man who is about to do 
or to say something concerning whicli he has a reasonable doubt 
as to whether it is lawful or not, but in spite of the doubt, and 
without taking any trouble to settle it, he carries out his inten- 
tion; or else he knows that he is not sufficiently instructed in 
religious matters that concern'the duties of his state of life, and 
yet, through sheer laziness and indifference, he seldom goes to a 
sermon, or tries to get proper instruction; now this man commits 
many and grievous breaches of duty; does he sin by so doing? 
There is not the least doubt of it. But why? he does not knoAv 
that he is guilty of sin. True; he could and should have known 
it under such circumstances; for when doubts of the lawful- 
ness of his act occurred to him, it was his duty, before acting, 
to inquire and set his doubts at rest; and if he had done so, he 
would have found out that tlie action was sinful. Further, 
knowmg himself to be ignorant of many things, it was his duty 
to attend sermons or other instructions, that he miirht learn 
what he had to do. But he neglected both of these duties, and 
therefore his ignorance is culpable, or, as theologians sa,y, vincible, 
and it cannot excuse the faults and sins of which it is the 

We have in King Saul an example of this ignorance. See how 

of this^kTnd ^^® *^*^'^^ ^^ excuse himself for the rage and fury with which he per- 

saui per- secuted David. ^' It appeareth," he said, " that I have done fool- 

Da^d^ islily, and have been ignorant in very many things.'' ' Mark how 

he puts forward his ignorance as an excuse. And yet, did he 

not know very well that David was most innocent in his re^rard, 

and never had the least intention of depriving him of life and 

usurping his crown? Did he not know that he himself was 

guilty of the greatest cruelty in persecuting and trying to kill an 

innocent man? There is no doubt that he was fully aware of it, 

but he was blinded by jealousy, and paid no attention to the fact 

* Apparet quod stulte egerim, et igaoraverlm multa nimis.— I. Kings xxvl. 21. 


Culpable IgJiorance as a Cause of Many Sifts. 117 

tliat he was persecuting David without cause; or rather, he knew 
well enough that such was the case, but he did not wish to know 
it. If his ignorance had been justifiable, he would have changed 
his persecution into love, after having found out the truth; but 
lie did not do so, and therefore his ignorance was culpable and 

We have a still clearer example of it in the high-priests and 
elders of the Jewish people who put to death Jesus Christ, the 
Son of God. To take God prisoner and treat Him as a male- 
factor, to scorn Him as a fool and a mock-kins:, to scour^^e and 
flog Him, and condemn Him to death like a public criminal, and 
to nail Him to a disgraceful gibbet, that was certaiuly a sin the 
bare thought of which is enough to make one's hair stand on 
end with horror; and yet it was a sin that had its origin in cul- 
pable ignorance. The Scribes and Pharisees and high-priests 
were certainly determined to persecute Christ and put Him to 
death; but they were not quite certain that He was the Son of 
God, or they would not have crucified Him, as St. Paul testifies: 
''Eor, if they had known it, they would never have crucified the 
Lord of glory.'-" Truly, says St. Peter to the Jews, ''the 
author of life you killed. . . And now, brethren, I know that 
you did it through ignorance, as did also your rulers. " "" You have 
oppressed the just man, and have demanded a robber to be given 
to you in His stead, but it was all done through ignorance, 
because you knew not that He was the Son of God. Jesus 
Christ Himself, when praying for His murderers on the cross, 
said, " Father forgive them, for they know not what they do. " » 
Kevertheless, who will excuse the Jews and high-priests from a 
most fearful sin? For they could and should have known who 
Christ was. They were well aware that He had performed many 
miracles, that He had made the blind to see and the lame to 
Avalk, that He had cleansed lepers and raised the dead to life; 
and that was certainly proof enough that He was something 
more than a mere mortal; but they put the thought out of their 
minds at once, and, full of envy and hatred, they vented their 
rage on Him. Their ignorance, therefore, was gross and culpa- 
ble, and altogether inexcusable. 

My dear brethren, there is nothing more common among 
Christians nowadays, than this culpable ignorance, which every 

* Si enim cognovissent, nunquanj Dominum gloria3 cruoiflxissent.— I. Cor. ii. 8. 
^ Auctorem vitas interfecistis- . . Et nunc, fratres, scio quia per Iguorautiam fecistls, 
sicut et priucipes vestri.— Acts iil. 15, 17. 
' Pater dimitte Illis, non enim sciunt quid faciunt.— Luke xxiil. 34. 

And the 
Jews cruci- 
fied Our 

This cul- 
pable igno- 
rance is 
in matters 



Tw^-^:--^ !^'.W<F|'']*J'»My4*'-!?'ri*»"j -^ v^.:Ty^-'VTT^Ts-cTir^ 

1 18 Culpable Ignof'ance as a Cause of Many Sins. 

rolatin"? to 
and injus- 

day occasions numbers of sins that are not considered sins. 
How many acts of su[)erstiLion and devil-worship are not com- 
mitted amongst the common people, for tlie purpose of curii;^ 
illnesses, or healing cattle, or finding lost or stolen things, or to 
avert a misfortune, or to arrest a fugitive, etc.? And to this end 
they put their contidence in means or things that have been 
invented by fortune-tellers, or seen in dreams, and that have no 
power or efficacy to produce such effects, either of themselves, or 
from God, or from the Church. Simple-minded people ai"o 
guilty of this folly, because they do not know what the law of 
God condemns or approves of in such matters; and as long as 
the desired effect is produced, they consider the means lawful, 
although a well-founded suspicion of its lawfulness nniy often 
occur to them. IIow many grievous sins, too, of injustice mio 
committed in tlie same way? For very often things are slulcn 
by the poor from the rich, by servants from their masters, by 
workmen from their employers, and by shop-keepers from 
their customers; and although the thefts are small, yet in the 
course of time they amount to something considerable. Ami 
the people who are guilty of those thefts excuse themselves ii: 
their ignorance, by saying: Oh, it is only a small matter; it is at 
the farthest a venial sin; it is surely no great harm to take a 
trifle from a rich man who has abundance. IIow many acts of 
injustice are also committed in different offices and employments 
by those who are well aware that they do not understand their 
business sufficiently, and yet continue in their office, although 
through ignorance and incapacity they are the occasion of harm 
to many! For as a general rule they persuade themselves that 
they can follow the custom observed by others, and if a doubt 
occurs to them, they appeal at once to the example of those who 
held the same office before them. They were sensible and 
honest people, they say, and they led edifying lives; there' are 
others too, in the same position as myself, who imitate them; all 
these people wish to save their souls and escape hell; why should 
I not do as they do in this matter? etc. How many injustices 
are committed by defrauding workmen and laborers of their just 
wages, either wholly or partially? by keeping shopkeepers for 
years out of the money due them for goods bought from them? 
by not paying one's lawful debts, when possible? by borrowing 
money that there is no prospect of paying, and at the game time 
going to unnecessary expense in furniture, clothing, and costly 
living? And all these sins are committed by people who im- 

Ctilpable Ignorance as a Cause of Many Sins, 1 19 

agine that, as long as they have the good intention of paying 
some time or other, there is no danger of their committing sin, 
and hence they never think of mentioning such things in con- 
fession. V ^^ 

IIow many sins of lying and falsehood are committed amongst 
married people and servants, because, through ignorance, they 
think that it is lawful for them to lie to avoid discord and strife, 
and to preserve peace and harmony, as long as the lies do no 
harm to any one? In what an evil and un-Christian manner 
cliildren are sometimes brouglit up in idleness and worldly 
vanity from their very youth, while they learn but little of the 
Cliiistian doctrine, and, under pretence of relationship, or 
future marriage, or of learning how to behave in society, they 
arc allowed all freedom Avith the opposite sex, both in public 
and private? Th^toD comes from the culpable ignorance and 
deplorable negligence of parents, who do not think of, or ac- 
knowledge that most important obligatio7i that God has imposed 
on them, of bringing up their children to work for the attain- 
ment of their last end, to love and fear God, and to gain heaven. 
And if any one reminds them of their duty, or if they feel the 
sting of remorse, they think and say: Oh, there is no harm 
done; the poor children must have some amusement; they must 
learn how to behave in society, etc. Meanwhile their innocent 
souls are stained with many sins, they grow up in the practice 
01 secret vices, and the result often is that they go with their 
parents to the eternal flames of hell. How often and in how 
many ways that command of Our Lord, '' but I say to you, love 
your enemies," is grievously transgressed by those who secretly 
nourish hatred and resentment against their neighbor for years 
and years, and who cannot bear to see him, or to say a friendly 
woi'd to him, so that they refuse to give him the ordinary salu- 
tations, and, through a spirit of revenge, deny him the usual 
courtesies! And this they do without the least scruple, thinking 
that it is enough for them mei-ely to say, I bear him no ill-will; 
I do not wish him any harm; I forgive him from my heart, etc; 
and that they are not bound to anything further. 

In how many ways, and how grievously is not Christian 
charity violated by rash judgments, fault-finding, and making 
ill-natured remarks about the actions of others, while thev who 
Bm m this way imagine that there cannot be much harm in it, 
8mce the faults they speak of are known to many, or because 
they speak of them only in confidence, and under a pledge of 

By lying, 
not training 
one's chil- 
dren prop- 
erly, and 

ing, and bad 

T'^'r,i;^'<ij^r'r'»»«^-'*^"'7^?'""i'n^^:Tf.-^^ - 

■ Wm^^mn^^ s^^^ 

1 20 Culpable Ignorance as a Cause of Many Sins. 

secrecy, or because they must contribute their share to the 
general conversation. 

How many sins one occasions others to commit by caresses, 
impure gestures, and otlier actions which are the cause of scan- 
dal, although they are hardly thought anything of by those that 
arc guilty of them, because they say to themselves: I have no 
bad meaning in what I am doing, nol* do I intend to lead others 
into sin I How many sins of others do not people become respon- 
sible for by neglecting the duty of fraternal correction, when 
they could andHbught to save their neighbor from sin, and from 
the danger of it, by giving him a salutary warning or exhorta- 
tion I But thev say to themselves: what is it to me? I have to 
look after m3'self, etc. How many unworthy Communions and 
sacrilegious confessions are not made by those who do not right- 
ly know what is required for a proper examination of conscience, 
and especially for true sorrow and a firm purpose of amendment I 
For there are peojile who continne in the same habit of sin from 
one confession to another, in the same improper familiarity, in 
the same dangerous occasion, and they imagine all the time that 
it is enough for them merely to declare their sin in confession. 
By impurity How many grievous sins are not committed against purity by 
iiness. persons of both sexes! "What impure thoughts and desires con- 
stantly pass through their imaginations! How many indecent 
words and songs they give utterance to ! What disgusting 
pictures and statues are to be seen in their houses! What 
dangerous romances and love-tales are sometimes read, even 
before young people! How many love-letters are interchanged! 
How many impure looks are indulged in, even in the house of 
God! What freedom there is in jesting, laughing, recreation, 
and what dangerous liberties are allowed in mixed company! 
All these things are forbidden and condemned by our faith, and 
yet they are indulged in sometimes without scruple or anxiety, 
because there are people who, through gross ignorance, look on 
them as not sinful. Their idea is that, as long as one abstains 
from outward actions, there is no harm in indulging in mere 
thoughts and desires, which one has no intention of carrying 
into effect. Oh! if they only knew that everything that is done, 
said, or thought deliberately against holy purity, is sinful, and, 
generally speaking, mortally sinful, it would not be possible for 
Catholics who think of saving their souls to be so careless in 
this particular. What a vain, idle, nnmortified and sensual 
life, utterly opposed to the Christian law and the spirit of the 

Culpable Ignorance as a Cause of Many Sins. 121 

Gosjicl, people sometimes lead! And yet they never think of 
saying anything about it in confession, much less of amending 
it, and that, too, through culpable ignorance, because they refuse 
to see any harm in such a mode of life, and it is one that chimes 
in with the ideas of the world. Meanwhile, if they are warned ' 
in a sermon, or in the confessional, and told that they are fre- 
quently guilty of mortal sin, alas, they cry out in an agony of 
remorse, would that I had known that before, and I would have 
led a different life! God forbid that 1 should make a compact 
with tiie devil by superstitious practices! God forbid that I 
should lose mv soul bv committin"^ several small thefts! God 
forbid that I should be the caii^ of the eternal ruin of my 
neigh.bor, or of my own dear childi-en! God forbid that I should 
make sacrilegious confessions and Communions! With the help 
of God I am free from those sins, for I knew nothing: about 
tliem! You knew nothing about them? But you should have 
known about them, and therefore, through 3^our culpable igno- 
rance, you have often and grievously trangressed the divine law. 

Kow you have the answer to the question as to whether such ismo- 
iGrnorance of that kind is likely to excuse us, before the iudsr- !!^?^^*^^^^ 

'-' •' ' JO not excuse 

ment-scat of God, for the sins that are committed through it; the sius 
and whether it will be of any advantasre to us to say, by way of c^"^™*^^^^ 

•^ . , ^ Jf J J through it. 

justification. Lord, I have, it is true, transgressed Thy com- 
mands, and violated the Christian law; but I did not know that 
I was guilty of a grievous sin thereby, or I would never have 
(lone it. AVould to God, mv dear brethren, that such were the 
case, that countless sins were not offensive to^ God, and that we 
could strike out of the catalogue of crime thousands of actions, 
and be thus released from the enormous debt of complete satis- 
faction and from the necessity of doing penance; for, God help 
us, there are mortal sins enon2:h already committed with full 
knowledge and deliberation. But if I Avish to speak the truth 
in the matter, I must tell you i^lainly, Christians, that these 
excuses are of no avail. I will let St. Bernard answer the ques- 
tion for me: Alas, he says, if such were the case, if ignorance of 
the kind excused us in the sight of God, why did the same God, 
in the Old Law, when men were not so enlightened in spiritual 
thiugs as we are now, command His people to offer certain 
sacrifices for the sins committed through ignorance alone? 
These are the words of the law, that the Lord gave His people 
by the Prophet Moses: *' And if through ignorance you omit 
any of these thiugs, which the Lord hath spoken to Moses, and 

• -*^ *^— - '■ ---• ' ■ 



122 Ctilpable Ig7iorance as a Cause of Many Sins, 

by him hath commanded 3^011 . . . and the multitude have for- 
gotten to doit: they shall offer a calf out of the herd, a holo- 
caust for a most sweet savor to the Lord .... and a buck-<iout 
for sin . . . and it shall be forgiven them, because tliey sinned 
ignorantly, offering notwithstanding a burnt offering to the Lord 
for themselves and for their sin and their ignorance . . . because 
it is the fault of all the i)eople, through ignorance . . . But 
if one soul sluill sin ignorantly. he sliall offer a she-goat of a 
year old for his sin . . . The same law shall be for all that sin 
by ignorance, whether they be natives or strangers.^' ^ Read the 
second chapter of Leviticus, and you will find a detailed descrip- 
tion of the sacrifices that had to be offered in atonement for sins 
committed through ignorance by a priest, a prince, the whole 
community, or a private individual. In the latter case the 
sacred text says: **And if any one of the people of the land 
shaUr^in through ignorance, doing any of these things, that by 
the law of the Lord are forbidden and offending, and shall come 
to know his sin, he shall offer a she-goat without blemish "... 
and tbe priest ** shall, pray for him, and it shall be forgiven 
They will jf our ignorance could excuse us before God, why did the 
bvG<^'^^ penitent David, i\\ fear and dread of impending punishment, 
cry out to God: '* My ignorances do not remember? " ' lie 
should rather have put them forward as an excuse, and have 
said: O dear Lord, do not forget that I did not know what I 
-was doing; remember my ignorances, I pray Thee; for if they 
can excuse me from sin, there is nothing better for me than 
that Thou shouldst remember them. But such is not the prayer 
of the enlightened Prophet; he says rather: " My .ignorances 
do not remember; " blot them, Lord, out of that terrible 
book, which Thou wilt one day open against me, and out of 
which I shall be judged; pardon me for them now, and I will 
do penance. And why does the Wise Ecclesiasticus pray so 
earnestly to God, " Lord Father and Sovereign Ruler of my 

* Qnodsi per iffnordntiara, pra?terlpritis quldquam honim, quae locutus est Domlmis ad 
Moysen, . . • oblitaqne fuerit facere mnltltiido : offeret vitulum de armento. holocaustum in 
odorem suaviAsl'mim Domino, . . . hiicumque pro peccato . . . Quod sJ anima una uesciens 
peccaveht. offeret capram anniculam pro peccato suo • . • Tarn Indijrenis quam advenisuua 
lex erit omnium, qui jioocaverint iffnorantes.— Num. xv. 22-20. 

2 Quodsi percavorit anlma per IpnoranUam, de populo teme, ut faciat quldquam de his 
au5E Domini lejre prohibentur, atque delinquat, et co(?noverit peccatura suum, offeret ca- 
pram Immaculatam • . . rogabitque pro eo, et pro peccato ejus, et dimmittetur el.— Levit. 
\s. 27, 28, 31. 

' Ignorantlas meas ne memlneris?— Ps. xilT. 7. 

Ctilpable Ignorance as a Cause of Many Sins. 12 

life," save me from my enemies, ^Hest my ignorances increase, 
and my offences be multiplied, and my sins abound, and I fall 
before my adversaries, and my enemy rejoice over me.^^ ' If 
ignorance could excuse us from sin, why did the most just and 
merciful God punish it so severely in the Old Law? Hear what 
He says by the Prophet Isaias: *' Therefore is My people led 
away captive, because they had not knowledge, and their nobles 
have perished with "famine. Therefore hath hell enlarged her 
soul, and opened her mouth without any bounds, and their 
strong ones, and their people, and their high and glorious ones 
shall go down into it."' And why, just God? What have 
Thy peoi)le done? *' Because they had not knowledge." In the 
Fourth Book of Kings the same is said of the Assyrians, who 
were torn to pieces by lions: *'The nations . . . know not the 
(ydinances of the God of the land; aiiijthe Lord hath sent lions 
among them: and behold, they kill them, because they know^ not 
the manner of the God of the land." ^ But, God of goodness, 
all these people had no knowledge of Thy law; whv, then, dost 
Thou punish them so severely? Is it their fault that they did 
not observe that of which they knew nothing? Yes; for they ' 
could and should have known it; they had teachers enough; the 
Lord sent them ])rophets; but yet they Ji ad not knowledge, 
because they did not earnestly desire it. They did not wish to 
understand that certain sensual indulgences are sinful, and so 
they were unchaste; they did not Avish to understand that cer- 
tain contracts are invalid, and so they were unjust: they did 
not wish to understand that all revenge is forbidden, and so 
they were vindictive; thus their ignorance w^ent on increasing, 
until they fell into idolatry at last. There is no doubt, then, 
that it is not every ignorance that can excuse or justify us for 
the sins that we commit on account of it. 

And to put the matter briefly, my dear bj-ethren, there can be in our days 
but few in our days, in this part of the world, who can put for- exnUeVur 
ward ignorance as an excuse for their sins. Why do I say that? christians. 
Because we have, or at least easily can have, 'too much light and « 

^ Domine Pater et dominator vits; men?, . . . ne adincrescant ignorantia? meoc, et multl- 
plicentur delfcta mea, et peccata mea abundent, et incidam in conspectu advei-sariorum 
Rieoriim. et jraudeat super mo inimicus mens— Ecclus. xxiii. 1, .^. 

' Propierea captivus ductus est populus mens, quia non liabuit scientiam, et nobiles ejus 
Interierunt fame, propterea dilatavit irfernus animam suam, et aperuitos suum tbsque ullo 
termlno, et descendent fortes ejus, et populus ejus, et sublimes, gloriosique ejus ad eum. 
-Is. V. \\ 14. 

^ Gentes . . . iiamorant lejritima Dei terras : et immisit in eos Dom#nus leones, et ecce in- 
terQciuut eos, eo quod ignorent ritum Dei terrae.— IV. Kings xvli. 26. 


On account 
of t'.ie many 
ties they 
have of 

their duty. 

124 Culpable Ignorance as a Cause of Many Sins. 

knowledge about those things that concern the divine law and 
onr eternal salvation. *^ If I had not come and spoken to 
them," said Our Lord of the Jews who persecuted Him because 
they would Hot acknowledge His divinit}^ " they would not 
have sin: but now they have no excuse for their sin; ^■' ' for they 
have seen the miracles I have wrought, and have heard j\Iy 
sermoiis and exhortations, and therefore it is through culpable 
i,2:norance that they refuse to acknowledge My divinit}'. Chris- 
tians, if we were in the middle of a desert, or in Japan, from- 
which all Catholics are excluded, or if we had to live amongst 
heathens and Turks, so that we could learn nothing about the 
Gospel truths; or if those truths were declared to us only in 
figures and parables, as they formerly were in the Old Law; or 
if the times were now as they vrere a few hundred years ago, 
when heresies and persecutions Avere troubling the Church to 
such an extent that the word of God could hai'dly be preached 
to the people; then, perhaps, we might have some hope that 
ignorance and the want of proper instruction would excuse our 
sins before the jiulgment-seat of God, so that we could say to 
Him: I have sinned, Lord, but I knew not what I was doing; 
there was no one to teach me the wav to heaven, or to instruct 
me in Thv law, and therefore I could not know anything about 
it. But in a country, in a city, in which sound Catholic doc- 
trine is taught; at a time when the vrord of God is preached so 
freely in so many churches, and when so frequently on Sundays 
and holydays the Christian doctrine is explained from the pulpit 
and in the confessional, and when it is so easy to ask the advice 
of learned and pious priests; if , I say, one of us, under those 
circumstances, were to attempt to excuse himself on account of 
ignorance (uidess indeed he had lost the use of reason) and to 
say: I have sinned because I knew no better; I have sinned in 
io-norance, his excuse would not be of the least value before the 
all-seeing God. 

And he would make a mistake like that of the rich man in the 
Gospel, who put forward the ignorance of his brethren, who were 
still on earth, as a reason for Abraham to send Lazarus to warn 
them, that they too should not come to the same place of tor- 
m-ents. And what answer did he get? " And Abraham said to 
him: They have Moses and the prophets: let them hear them; 

>? a 

» Si non venissem, el locutus fulssom eis, peccatura non haterent : nunc autein oxcusar 
tionem non habent de peccato suo.— John xv. 22. 
2 Ait illl Abraham : habent Moysen et prophetas : audlant lllos. -Luke ivi. 21;. 

Culpable Ignorance as a Cause of Many Sins. 125 

it is not necessary to send any one to them from the dead; the 
prophets can tell them what they have to do in order to escape 
hell; let them hear them, and follow their salutary exhortations; 
if they refuse to do that, their destruction will be their own 
work. Now come forward, you ignorant Christians, and say 
that you could not help committing sin, because you kncAv not 
what you were doing! You could not help it? And who could 
help it, then? The Almighty God perhaps, who could have 
given you greater knowledge? You ought to wait,^then, to see 
if He will not send an angel from heaven or a Lazarus from the 
dead to instruct you. No; you have Moses and the prophets. 
You had your prophets, He will say; I have caused My law and 
My Gospel to bo clearly explained to you; you were not wanting 
in understanding, and, besides, I have often given you good in- 
si)irations. For what else is the meaning of those doubts and 
suspicions, of that secret fear and anxiety you feel, lest some- 
thing you are about to do be a sin? Y^ou should have tried to 
set your doubts at rest; but you did not do so, and therefore 
you have only yourself to blame. Was it not your fault that 
you did not know your duty? And whose was it if not that of 
the spiritual guides and preachers who did not explain the divine 
law, or correct your vices? (I shudder when I think of the 
great responsibility that rests on them.) But, God be praised, 
there were good prophets enough; why did you not hear them? 
You seldom came to a sermon; did you expect them to go after 
you? Therefore you have no excuse for your sin; you must at- 
tribute your ignorance to your own laziness and carelessness, 
and to the sensuality, love of comfort, and vanity in dress that , 
prevented you from coming to sermons; or you must put it 
down to your over-indulgence in sleep, or to the temporal cares 
that engrossed you to such an extent that you paid no attention 
to the all-important business of your soul. In a word, you can 
blame no one but yourself, and you have no excuse before God, 
because your ignorance is culpable. 

Nay, I say even more than that; your ignorance will accuse such i^no- 
and put you to shame on the day of iudgment, on account of the T"^ T" 
prudence and knowledge you display in matters that concern shame m tho 
your bodily well-being, your honor, and your temporal goods, ^"•^p^o^^'^^ 
which are often more difficult to understand than the law of 
God, although you are never wanting in wisdom or knowledge 
regarding them. If there is a dollar profit to be made, or a 
chance of doing a good stroke of business, oh, how active and 


6 Culpable Ignorance as a Cause of Many Sins. 


eager you become all at once, how you hurry out of bed and 
rush off immediately, so as to lose no time I How accurately 
you can weigh every circumstance so as to ensure success I How 
careful you are to avoid mistakes! How diligent in profiting by 
every favorable opportunity! K there were any one who could 
teach the art of making fifty dollars a day, I think there is hard- 
ly one who would not go to school to him. See, the divine 
Judge Avill say, how wise and prudent you were in earthly 
things; why were you not equally careful in those that con- 
cerned your immortal soul and its eternal salvation? These latter 
you trusted to chance, without consideration or anxiety, as if 
they were of no importance. Hence your ignorance will be con- 
demned by so many simple peasants, nay, by so many heathens 
and infidels, who had not the light and instruction, nor the oji- 
portunities of doing good, nor the examples of virtue that you 
have or can have every day; and these people, with the light 
of reason alone to guide them, led better lives than you lead. There 
is uo excuse, then, for your sin; but you have , rather to fear 
greater confusion and a deeper damnation on account of the 
culpable ignorance through which your sins were committed. 

Ah, my Lord and my God, what shall I say to justify myself? 

I cannot denv, but must acknowledsre with a thankful heart 

low the that Thou hast hitherto been generous enough in enlightening 

divine light ^^ y^^^ j jjj^^g^ ^Iso confcss with sorrow and repentance that I 

have made a bad use of the lights Thou hast given me! Oh, how 
much good I have omitted, how much evil I have done through 
culpable ignorance, for I could and should have known better ! 
There is nothing ifor me now but with Thy penitent servant 
David to acknowledge humbly my guilt, and to say w'ith him: 

Lord, " my ignorances do 7iot remember." Pardon me accord- 
ing to the multitude of Thy mercies! I will be more careful 
henceforward in the most important affair of my soul and its eter- 
nal salvation! I will seek the truth and the understanding of 
Thy law by being diligent in hearing Thy divine word, and in 
asking advice of Thy servants in all matters concerning which 

1 have a doubt in conscience. Xever will I do, say, or omit any- 
thing until I shall have first fully considered whether it is in 
strict accordance with Thy divine law. Never more shall I look 
to what others like me do, but rather to what I am bound to do 
according to Thy law; nor to what the vain customs of the 
world might exact, but rather to what my last end requires of 
me, that I may know Thee, my Sovereign Good, love Thee with 

and reso- 
lution tofol- 



Blindness a7id Obduracy as a Punishment of Sift. 12 j 

my whole heart above all things, and after this short life, enjoy 
Thee with Thy elect forever in heaven. Amen. 





1. In what this blindness consists, and how God inflicts it on 
man as a punishment for his sins. 2. This punishment is the 
most dreadful of all eYils.— Preached on the fifth Sunday in Lent. 


Propter ea vos non auditis, quia ex Deo nonestis. — John. viii. 47. 
"Therefore you hear them not, because you are not of God." 


What terrible words these are! "He that is of God heareth 
the words of God. Therefore you hear them not, because you 
are not of God; " you are abandoned and rejected by God, you 
will have no part in Him, and you will die in your wickedness, 
and be lost forever. This was the most fearful punishment 
that was inflicted on the Jews, and it was one that Our Lord had 
often foretold to them with tears in His eyes, namely, that they 
should become blind and obstinate, and should be rejected by 
God. I have already spoken, my dear brethren, of two kinds of 
spiritual blindness, the first of which is in itself a sin, and a 
most grievous sin, because on account of it one flies the light 
so as to have no knowledge of good and evil; while the second 
is the cause of many sins, and consists in a culpable ignorance of 
the divine law and of the duties of a Christian. I now go on to 
speak of the third kind of blindness, which is the greatest pun- 
ishment of sin. 

Plan of Discourse. 

In what this Uindness consists, and how God inflicts it on man 
fis a punishment for his sins; that I shall explain in the first part. 
That this punishme7it is the most dreadful of all evils, I shall 
show in the second part. 



Every sin- 
ner is blind- 

128 Blindness and Obdin^acy as a Punishment of Sin. 

dearest Saviour, I have now only one reqnesf to make of 
Thee: I beg of Tlioe, by all that is most dear to Thee, to grant 
that there may be no one in the world to whom this sermon of 
mine may be applied, and that in this large congregation there' 
may not be one who is in the lamentable state of which I am 
going to speak; for the only object I aim at is to inspire every 
one with an irreconcilable hatred, horror, and detestation of ail 
sin. If, nevertheless, contrary to my hopes, there should un- 
fortunately bo any one here present who is sunk so deeply, then 
I ^K)Q,g of him. if he has the least desire ofsiilvation left, to open 
his eyes now, as this may be the last chance he will get in this 
life, in order that he may see the miserable state in which he i>^, 
and do penance at once. Mar}', refuge of sinners, and yoii, 
holy angels, obtain for us the light of the Holy Ghost: for me, 
that I may righrly explain the truth; and for all who are listening 
to me, that they may understand it aright, and henceforth avoid 
sin more than any other evil. 

Let no one imagine that I am now going to speak of corporal 
blindness; although, if that were the only punishment inflicted 
by the divine justice on our sins, it would certainly be enough 
to deter every sensible man from sin. For who is there amou2: 
you, my dear brethren, who, if he knew for certain that he would 
be struck blind after offending God, so that he would nevermore 
see the light of day; who, I say, would wish to pay so dearly for 
a momentary and brutal pleasure, for a worthless and perishable 
gain, or for some forbidden enjoyment, such as sinners find in 
creatures? If I know you well, there is not one of you who would 
be so foolish. But this is not the blindness with which an angry 
God punishes sinners, otherwise I should not feel so much pity 
for them; but there is a blindness that is all the more deplorable, 
as the soul is more precious than the body. We have bodily 
eyes in common with the meanest creature that crawls the earth; 
it is the light, the eyes of the soul, that makes us like the angels, 
nay, like even to God Himself. Your one, precious, and immor- 
tal soul, sinners, is thrown into exterior darkness and is 
stricken with the most deplorable blindness by sin. A punish- 
ment, alas! that we are all the more insensible to, the more we 
rob ourselves of the light. Nor is it my intention now to speak 
of the blindness that is common to all sinners'; for every sinner, 
even the first time he grievously trangresses the law of God, 
foolishly deprives himself of the favor of God and sanctifying 
grace, which is the light of the soul; and as if he were incapable 

Blindness and Obduracy as a Punishmejit of Sin. 129 

of seeing what he is doing, chooses earth instead of heaven, a 
creature instead of the Creator, and the fire of hell instead of 
eternal happiness. Wherefore all sinners deserve to be called 
blind, and St. Paul speaks of sins as the v/orks of darkness: 
"Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness," he writes to 
the Romans, '' and put on the armor of light." ' 

The subject of my sermon to-day is another and most terrible ^"ndnoss 
spu'itual blindness, wnich arises from committing grievous sm ,.,.cy(.o,^e 
over and over again, and from long-continued habits of vice, fromionsr- 
and it is called a blinding of the understanding and a- hardening ^abits^f*^ 
of the will in wickedness; '^ and, amongst other punishments, it sin. 
is threatened to those who refuse to hear the voice of God call- 
insr them. " But if thou wilt not hear the voice of the Lord thv 
God," are the terrible words we read in the Book of Deuteronomy, 
*^the Lord strike thee with madness and blindness and fury of 
mind, and maj/est thou grope at midday as the blind is w^ont to 
grope in the dark, and not make straight thy ways." ' Of that 
blindness St. Paul says: '^Because that, when they knew God, 
they have not glorified Him as God . . .their foolish heart was 
darkened . . . God delivered them up to a reprobate sense, to do 
those things which are not convenient,"* that they may be 
filled with all kinds of iniquity and wickedness. With this 
blindness and obduracy God justly punished king Pharao, who 
had so often disobeyed Him: "and the Lord hardened Pharao's 
heart . . . and his heart w'as hardened, and the heart of his ser- 
vants, and it was made exceeding hard." * So that the plagues 
he had to suffer only made him more obstinate in refusing to 
obey the divine command, and let the people of Israel go ; but 
when at length he did let them go, he repented of having done so, 
pursued them with his whole army, ventured rashly into the Red 
Sea, in the face of an evident miracle wrought in favor of the 
Israelites, and was drowned with all his arm v. As St. John the 
Evangelist writes, the same blindness was inflicted by God on 
the obstinate Jews: " He hath blinded their eyes and hardened 
their heart: that they should not see with their eyes, nor under- 

^ Abjiciamus ergo op;'ra tenebrarum, et induamur arma lucis.— Rom. xiii. 15. 

^ Exeaecatio et obduratio mentis. 

' Quodsi aiidire nolueris vocem Domini Dei tui . . . . percutiat te Dominus amentia ac 
csecitate, ac furore mentis, et palpes in merldie, sicut palpare solet caecus in tenebris, et 
non dirigas \itis tuao.— Dent, xxviii. 15, 28. 

* Quia cu!Q coijnovissent Deum, non sicut Deum frloriflcaVerunt .... obscuratum est 
insipiens cor eorum .... tradidlt illos Deus In reprobura sensum, ut faciant ea quie non 
convenlunt.— Rom. i. 21, 28. 

* Induravitque Dominus cor Pbaraonls . . . . et ingravatum est cor ejus, et servorum 
Ullas, et Induratum nimis.— Exod. Ix. 12, 35. 


130 Blindiiess and Obduracy as a Punishment of Sin. 

stand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal 

' thorn/'' 

In what Hence this punishment consists in the fact that God, as it 

they consist. , ^ i, ^i i ^ ^ \ • t ■'^ tt- 

were, abandons man altogether, and excludes iiim Irom His 

fatherl}^ care, so that he can neither see nor understnnd any- 
thing good with his understanding, nor accomplish anything 
good with his will; and thus nothing is left for him but eternal 
damnation, as St. Augustine says.^ Tliey are abandoned by 
God and rejected by Him, that tliey may commit all the sins 
thev are damned for. merciful God, Tliou art the Autlior 
of light, for Tliou enlightenest every man that cometh into the 
world. Thou sayest of Thyself: " I desire not the death of the 
y wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.'-' 

How then can it be that Thou blindest man, takest away all 
light from him, and hardenest his heart in wickedness, so that 
he may not be converted to Thee, bnt be lost forever? Yes, my 
dear brethren, it is even the infinitely good and merciful God who 
thus severely punishes man, when He has borne with his sins for 
a long time, and often exhorted and Avarned him to no purpose. 
Nor is this punishment too severe, for, as St. Augustine says, it 
is in accordance with the strictest justi(.'e: "It is a most just 
punishment of sin that one should lose that which he wjonld not 
make a good nse of . . . and that he who deliberately omits to do 
good, should at last neither know nor understand what good is.'' * 
Such, too, is the meaning of the words of St. Bernard regarding 
those philosophers of whom St. Paul speaks: 'Mvith justice is 
their foolish heart darkened; for, since they rejected the known 
truth, it is only right that they should be punished by having 
the light taken away from them, so that they can no longer see 
the truth." ' Such, too, is the way in which the Holy Catholic 
Church acts, as well as temporal superiors, in the excommunica- 
tion or banishment of those in whom no signs of improvement 
are to be observed, after repeated admonition; for those dis- 
obedient subjects are cut off from the society of the faithful as if 
the Church wished to know nothing more of them. 

But that no one, my dear bi-ethren, may have a mistaken idea 

God Inflicts 
the punisb- 

» Excsecavlt oculos eorum, et induravlt cor eorum, ut non videant oculis, et non intel- 
liRant corde, et convertai)tiir, et sanem eos.— John xii. 40. 

3 Utlque daranatl, ut tanta operentiir mala. 

» Nolo mortem Impil, sed ut convertaiur implus a via sua, et vlvat.— Exod. xxxiil. H. 

< nia est poena peccati justissirna, ut iimittat unusqulsque illud quo beue utl noluit . . . 
ut qui sclens recte non faclt, amittat scire quod rectum est. 

» Merito obsouratum est loslplens cor eorum. quia, cum verltatem coffnoscerent et con- 
temnerent. Jure receperunt In poenam, ut nee cognoscerent earn.— S. Bern. Ep. 19. 

Blindness and Obduracy as a Punishment of Sin. 1 3 1 

of the mercy of God in this matter, as if He deliberately planned menton 
the eternal ruin of a man by increasing his guilt, you must not withdraw- 
forf^et how this punishment of blindness and obduracy is inflicted ingfrom 
by God. Our God is infinitely good, and patient, and merciful; ^^^^^^ 
lie never abandons man unless the latter abandon him for too graces, 
long a time altogether. He does not and cannot wish any one to 
commit sin, nor can He, nor will He condemn any one to hell 
who does not himself elect to go there; He rejects no sinner, no 
matter how great his guilt may be, who does true penance; and He 
is prepared to receive into His friendship even the most wicked 
sinner who does penance even at the last moment of his life. 
Such is the teaching of the infallible word of God in Holy 
Scripture; such, too, is the experience of many great sinners. If 
God intended first to abandon us, says St. Augustine, why did He 
send His Only-begotten Son down on earth to redeem all men, 
and show them the way to heaven? Wliy should that Son have 
allowed Himself to be so cruelly tortured, and to be nailed to 
the cross for our sake? ^^, once for all, it is and must be true, 
that the good God does not wish the death of the sinner, but 
that he be converted and live. But now, see how He allows the 
sinner to become blind dnd obdurate. After He has given to a • 
man many special graces for a long time, and, as often is the 
case, for many long years borne with his sins with the greatest 
patience, but sees that His inspirations are always rejected and 
despised, that the man constantly relapses into his former sina 
after confession, and through malice, and so makes a bad use of 
His patience and goodness, while there is no sign of amendment: 
what does God do then? In order to avenge Himself for the 
contempt witli whicli he has been so persistently treated, He 
withdraws from the sinner the graces that He is not at all bound 
to give him, and which He has hitherto bestowed on him solely 
out of the superabuml'Mice of^JIis goodness. Consequently He 
no longer gives him such a clear knowledge of the Gospel 
truths, nor does He bestow such vivid lights on his understanding, 
as to make him see and dread the malice and deformity of sin, 
the short duration of the pleasure to be derived from it, and the 
eternity of the pains that have to be suffered for it in liell. 
Thus he has greater difficulty in avoiding sin. Nor docs God any 
lont^er dve him those impulses and inward movements of the 
will, which we otherwise feel so sweet and refreshing, that we 
can easily keep His law. mortify our sensuality and evil inclina- 
tions, perform the works of Christian piety and charity, bear 

Then the 
desire for 
sin in- 
creases con- 


:if I :i;i 

132 Blindness and Obduracy as a Punishment of Sin. 

crosses and trials patiently, practise virtue with ease and facility 
and find such strength in dangers tluit we can overcome thcni 
easily. These graces, I say, which God is not bound to give to 
any one, lie withdraws from the obstinate sinner, and delivers 
him over to his own desires and inclinations, as He says by the 
Prophet David, -'My people heard not My voice: and Israel 
hearkened not to Me. So I let them go according to the desires 
of their heart; they shall walk in their own inventions." * And 
they will do all that sensuality and their own will may su'^o-est 
to them. 

iS'ow, when these graces are thus withdrawn from the sinner 
and he is given over to his own desires, wli'at happens to him? 
Alas, the same that happened to our dear Lord, when Pilate 
delivered Him over to the will of the Jews: "But Jesus he 
delivered up to their will;"'' they fell upon Him like wolves, 
dragged Him off to Calvary, and there cruelly murdered Him. 
sinner, are you given over to your own evil inclinations? Alas, 
what will become of you? Nothing else can be the result but 
that your understanding will be blinded and your will hardened. 
For when those special graces of God no longer impel you to 
good and restrain you from evil, if the least temptation or occa- 
sion of sin, such as we are daily exposed to, assails you, you will 
consent to it without the least hesitation, fear, or shame; from 
one sin you will fall into another, from that into a third, and so 
on, until your sins are beyond counting. For, says St. Thomas, 
as the just man cannot long refi'ain from all venial sin on ac- 
count of his inborn weakness, so also he who is in mortal sin 
will have even greater difficulty in avoiding fresh sin. If you 
throw a stone into a pond, it will at once make a circle in the 
water; this circle will make another, the other a third, and so it 
goes on until the last circle is so far away that it vanishes out of 
sight. So it is also with the heart of the wicked man, that the 
Holy Scrij^ture compares to a stormy sea. " But the wicked are 
like the raging sea, which cannot rest. "' says the Lord bv the 
Prophet Isaias ; and one sin is constantly urging on the other 
therein without rest. From this comes the habit of sin, from 
the habit arises a concatenation of vices, an ever increasin<^ 
circle of abominations, a deplorable ebb and flow of sin, and 
finally a natural necessity, as it were of sinning, as St. Augustine 

> Non audlTlt popuhis mens voreni ineam, et Israel non intendlt mihi ; et dimisl eos se- 
cundum clesiderla cordi"! connn : ibunt in ndin^ntionibus suis,— Ps. Ixxx. 12, 13. 
- Jesum vero tradidit voluntati eoruni.— Luke xxlii. 25. 
* Impii autem quasi mai-e fervcns, quod quiescere uou potest.— Is. MI. 20. 

Blindness and Obduracy as a Punishment of Sin. 13 

says; so that it is almost impossible to the sinner to amend, nor 
do his sins cease unless with his life, and when he is already at 
the gate of eternal death. 

And on the other hand there arises a dislike to everythin<i 
good; the desire for prayer disappears, the church is seldom 
visited, the holy sacraments and all works of devotion cause 
disgust, there is no relish for the word of God, and therefore 
the sinner hears no more sermons, or, if he does hear them, it 
is only to satisfy his curiosity, or to criticise the preacher; the 
desire and inordinate love of temporal goods increase more and 
more; there is a perpetual sighing with the Jews for the flesh- 
pots of Eg^rpt, that brings with it a disgust for the bread of 
heaven; and, like the prodiM son, there is no longer any relish 
except for the husks of swii^. All this will at last cause the 
heart to become so hardened, that it will become insensible to 
exiiortations and threats alike. God in His mercy may be 
gei>erous to him, and bestow abundant temporal blessings on 
him, bat his ingratitude will only be the greater; with the best 
intentions towards him, God may visit him with trials and ad- 
versity, but, like Pharao, he will only become more obstinate. 
"I fed them to the full," is the complaint God makes of those 
people by the Prophet Jeremias, "and they committed adul- 
tery." ' " Thou hast struck them," says the same Prophet to the 
Lord, '^and they have not grieved; Thou hast bruised them, and 
they have refused to receive correction; they have made their 
faces harder than the rock, and they have refused to return."' 
"They have denied the Lord, and said: It is not He; " ' this pun- 
ishment, they say, does not come from God; this misfortune 
has happened to me by mere chance; they are insensible to 
everything that happens to them, like the stone pillar in the 
field that remains unaffected by wind, rain, or hail. Pious 
people may talk kindly to them, or try to ejicourage them to do 
good by example, but to no purpose except to excite their ridi- 
cule; they look on pious, humble, and chaste souls as superstitious 
and miserable fools. 

And what is there to be suprised at in that? The obdurate 
sinner is blinded once for all, and he is incapable, so to speak, 
of discerning between good and evil, between what is reprehen- 
sible and what is praiseworthy: *^They have not known nor 

' Saturavl eos, et moechatl sutit.— Jerem v. 7. 

* Percussisti eos, et non doluerunt; attrivisti eos, et renuerunt adcipere dlsclplinam; in- 
duraverunt facies suas supra petram, et noluerunt reverti.— Ibid. 3. 
^ Negaverunt Dominum, et dixerunt: non est ipse.— Ibid. 12. 

And the dis- 
like to jrood 

And Anally 
blindness in 

^ :i 

i-^^ Blindness aiid Obduracy as a Punishment of Sin. 

understood, they walk on in darkness. " ' If you represent to 
him tlie joys of heaven which he loses by mortal sin, he neither 
knows nor understands what you are speaking of. Open to him, 
if you can, tlie abyss of hell, show him the thousands of. souls 
actually burning there, the hideous and cruel demons, the fear- 
ful phantoms, the burning lake of sulphur, the inextiuguishable 
fire, tlie intolerable eternal pain in which he has already set his 
foot, and to which he will' certainly be condemned if he does not 
repent; he will not understand anything of what you suy. 
Remind him of the sliortness of life, a single moment of which 
he cannot be sure of, the uncertainty of death, which generally 
surprises the sinner, but you will make no impression on him; 
you might as well be talking to a blind man of color, or tell the 
news to one who is asleep. *^ He speaketh with one that is 
asleep," says the vrise Ecclesiasticus, '' who uttereth wisdom to 
a fool; anil in the end of the discourse he saith: Who is 
this?"' He who is called or disturbed in the midst of a deep 
sleep, at once asks; Who is that? Who is calling me? What 
do you want? And he falls off to sleep again. great Apostle, 
St. Paul, who hast converted so many souls by thy preaching, 
call out into the ears of those hardened sinners that exhortation 
of thine, **Be instant in season, out of season: reprove, entreat, 
rebuke in all patience and doctrine." ^ But thou wilt do them 
little good, for "They have not known nor understood; they 
walk on in darkness." They knpw nothing of what thou sayest 
to them, because the light of the soul has been taken away from 
them. " The wicked man, when he is come into the depth of 
eins, contemneth; but ignominy and reproach follow him." * 
The loss of eternal happiness, the bitterness of death, the pains 
of hell, the remembrance of which used formerly to send a shud- 
der through him, he now utterly disregards; since he has sunk 
into the depth of sin, he is no longer afraid of those things; 
nay, he laughs at them, and affects to disbelieve them; he looks 
on them as a dream, as mere talk of the priests, mere pointless 
arrows which cannot hurt; and, as St. Athanasius says, he is no 
more frightened at them than a blacksmith's dog is at the ham- 
mering to which he has long grown accustomed. Meanwhile, 

^ Nescieront neque intellexerunl, in tcnebris ambulant.— Ps. Ixxxi. 5, 

' Curfi dormiente loquitur, qui enarrat stulto sapientiam, et in One narrationis dicit: quis 
est hie?— Ecclus. xxii. 0. 

» Insta opportune, importune ; argue, obsecra, Increpa in oroni patientia et doctrlna.— IL 
Tim. Iv. 2. 

* Impius cum In profundum venerit peccatorum, contemnit; sed sequitur eum ignominia 

et opprobrium.— Prov. xviil. 3. 

Blind^icss and Obduracy as a Punishment of Sin, 135 

since he loses more and more every day the light and knowledge 
of divine things, whilst his wickedness is daily on the increase, 
he at length goes so far that he does not wish to be better, and 
cannot be worse, and even if it were possible for him to do 
penance, he would be as far oif from it as the demons themselves. 
Such, my dear brethren, is the state of a blind and hardened 
sinner, such is the punishment that an angry God inflicts on 
man for his obstinacy in wickedness. Let these words resound 
in the ears of all sinners who are still capable of hearing them. 
Could a greater punishment than this be imagined? No; it is 
impossible, as I shall show in the 

Second Part. 

A punishment that is an unmixed evil, and has no good what- ^* *^*^® 
ever in it, is certainly the greatest of all. Such a punishment %y^, 
is the blindness and obduracy of the sinner in wickedness. All ment. 
other evils, no matter by what name they are called, are indeed 
just punishments for sins committed; but if one only knows how 
to make the proper use of them, they are at the same time 
means of attaining eternal life more securely, and therofoie they 
are rightly reckoned amongst the benefits and graces of God. 
They are, says St. John Chrysostom, evils which by their sev- 
erity purify and cleanse our souls, make us enter into ourselves 
and see the vanity and deceitfulness of earthly things; they force 
us, as it were, to seek God; they are evils which serve to satisfy 
for our past sins, to help us to persevere in faith and good works, 
preserve us from fresh sin, and increase our merit and our glory 
in heaven; they are, in a word, evils that make us good and 
holy; but the blindness of the soul is an evil above all others, 
because no profit or advantage can be reaped from it. 

Have you sinned, man? Have you even grievously and Remorse of 
shamefully sinned? Have you sinned continuouslv for years and f*""^"®"*^ 
years.'' 15ut do you feel remorse of conscience? have you neither whencom- 
pleasure by day nor repose by night? do you contitmally hear aP^"^^"' 
voice calling in your ear: WJiat hast thou done? Thou art an 
enemy of God, a slave of the devil, a child of damnation. Cer- 
tainly, as long as that lash is scourging you, you are suffering 
severely; but after all, be comforted and rejoice, because all is 
not lost for you yet; the light of your soul is not yet altogether 
extinguished; God has not abandoned you; He is actually knock- 
ing at your door, and calling you back to His grace and friend- 
ship; the torture your conscience causes you, cruel as it is, can 

And all 
other evils 
are salutary 

i|: li 

136 Bliiidjicss and Obduracy as a Punishment of Sin. 

and will, if you are so minded, bring 3'ou back to penance, to 
God, to heaven. This is the testimony that St. Angustine, ■who 
■was first a sink of vice, and afterwards an exemplar of penance 
and a vessel of election, gives of himself: '' This very thing, my 
God/' he says, '' was for my good." ' It was this that saved me 
from the thraldom of the devil; namely, my conscience, wliicli 
daily and hourly was fighting against Thee and against myself. 
It was tiie bitter, but saUitary scourge of conscience that forced 
me to return to Thee. See there, my dear brethren, the gnawing 
worm of conscience is indeed a punishment; but it is a salutary 

If God sends me other trials: — for instance. He casts me down 
on a bed of sickness; I am reduced by misfortune to extreme 
poverty and destitution; I am persecuted by men, and put to 
shame before all my fellow-citizens; I am left desolate by the 
death of my parents and dear friends: all that is hard, without 
doubt; but still I can find consolation in all these trials and dif- 
ficulties. Oh, how happy I am if I know how to use them 
properly! For I can raise up my mind to heaven, and say: 
Blessed be Thou, my Lord and my God, who chastisest me ■with 
Thy rod, as a loving father chastises his children! This sick- 
ness, povert}^, misfortune, persecution, shame, and abandonment 
•which Thou sendest me, is in Thy merciful designs a school in 
which I can learn patience, an easy purgatory in which to at()ne 
for my sins, and a certain means of escaping hell and gaining 
heaven. I have already misused, or may perhaps misuse, my 
health to indulge in unlawful pleasures; if Thou hadst given, or 
left me w^ealth, I might perhaps have used it to lead a luxurious 
or an idle life, or to extol myself above others; but now, since 
Thou hast not given, or hast taken away those things from me. 
Thou hast shown me the vanity of this life, freed my heart from 
earthly things, and raised my desires to heaven, so that my 
punishment is a most salutary medicine for me. Before now I 
had a horror of penance, fasting, and bodily austerities, and I 
used to seek in all things the gratification of. my sensuality; now 
Thou conipellest me to suffer something for my sins, so that my 
punishment serves as an atonement for them. I was before lazy 
and slothful in Thy service, mv God; I have done little or 
nothing for Thy honor and glory; now Thou givest me an 
opportunity of doing something for Thee, so that the punish- 
ment I suffer is a sanctifying one for me. Thus, my dear 

* Hoc Ipsum est, Domine Deus, quod mlhi saluti fuit. 

Blindness and Obduracy as a Punishment of Sin. 137 

brethren, in every evil and chastisement that is incurred by sin, 
there is something good and consoling which lessens the pain 
one has to suffer. 

But in the blindness and obduracy of the soul there is no hope OMuracy is 
of amendment, no satisfaction, no merit. God inflicts that ofTern^ 
punishment, but man can drav/ no profit from it. In fact, there damnation. 
is hardly any difference between it and the punishment of the 
lost souls in hell, the most terrible feature of which is, that the 
damned, with all their torments, can never satisfy God for their 
sins, and the more they suffer, the more hardened do they be- 
come in wickedness. In the same way spiritual blindness daily 
increases the number of sins and vices, makes the heart more 
wicked, embitters more and more the divine anger, and adds 
every hour to the future pains of hell. Hence it is evidently 
not only the most terrible of i^anishments, but also a certain 
sign of eternal reprobation. That, as St. John Chrysostom re- 
marks, was the punishment that an angry God commanded the 
Prophet Isaias to announce to the Jewish people, wdien He was 
minded to chastise them most severely: '' Blind the heart of this 
people, and make their ears heavy, and shut their ej^es; lest they 
see with their eyes, and hear ■vVith their ears, and understand 
with their heart, and be converted, and I heal them." ' He did 
not say: humble the intolerable pride of that people; strike them 
dead; destroy them utterly. No, for all that seemed too slight 
a punishment, nay, no punishment at all, when compared to 
spiritual blindness. '' Blind the heart of this people; '' as if to 
say, this is the only punishment with which I can most severely, 
avenge the insults offered ]Me. War, pestilence, famine, and all 
other plagues are not enough for those rebels; I will fill their 
souls with gloom and darkness, so that they may not understand 
or do any good. That is the terrible w^oe that the same angry 
God announces by the Prophet Osee to those inveterate sinners 
who are hardened in wickedness: '* Woe to them when I shall 
depart from them."'' 

This is the anger and resentment of the Lord from -which the Therefore 
penitent David, with sighs and tears, begs to be delivered: '' on?y pun- 
Lord, rebuke me not in Thy indignation, nor chastise me in Thy isbnent 
wrath." =" Thou hast taken my beloved child out of the world; ^e'^shouif 

' Exctpca cor popull hujiis, et aures ejus a^^ravn, et oculos ejus Claude, ne forte videat 
oculis suis cL aurlbus r.u;s aud:at,et corde suo lDteIliffat,et convertatur, et sanem eum —Is 
n. 10. 

' Vfe eis, cnm recessero ab efs.— Osee Ix. 12. 

' Domlue, ue in furore tuo arguas rae, neque in Ira tua oorriplas me.— Ps. vi. 2. 

bej? to be 
delivered . 

138 Blindness and Obduracy as a Punts hrnent of Sin, 

my own son has made war on, and persecuted me; Thou hast 
decimated m}' j^eople by pestilence. But all that, Lord, I 
accept with resignation. ' Yes, merciful God, I kis& the 
fatherly hand that chastises me; I am ready to suffer still more 
punishments of the same kind; but one thing I beg of Thee, 
*' Kebuke me not in Thy indignation," nor with such anger as to 
give me over to my own desires, and to allow me to become blind 
and hardened in wickedness. Alas, woe to the man whom God 
thus punishes in His anger; for no worse punishment, but hell 
itself, can await him! Yet, why do I speak of a worse punish- 
ment? Is it not, asks St. Ambrose, a favor for such sinners to 
have their damnation hastened? If, Lord, I should ever be in 
that most miserable state, which I fervently hope I never shall 
be; if I should become obdurate and be rejected by Thee; if I 
should give up all idea of repentance, then, if I can still ask a 
favor of Thee, take me out of the world at once, Lord, and 
hasten the damnation that awaits me! Give me up to the demons; 
kindle the flames of hell for me, and hurl me at once into the 
place of my eternal torments! But what am I saying? Is it 
not time enongh for me to go down into hell after ten or twenty 
years? No, God, hasten my damnation; better for me to go 
now, than next year; to-day, than to-morrow; this very hour, 
than this evening. This is the greatest favor Thou canst do me 
in my present unhappy state, that Thou sendest me at once to the 
hell I have deserved! You are scandalized, my dear brethren, 
at this despairing prayer; but the idea is not mine; I have taken 
it from St. Ambrose. " It is better for sinners to die," he says 
''than to live."" So said also Our Lord to the traitor Judas at 
the Last Supper: "That which thou dost, do quickly."' De- 
lay no longer about it! Thou hast the intention of betraying 
Me to My enemies, and thou wilt hang thyself and go down to 
hell; delay no longer, then, but do so at once. And why? 
Because the longer such sinners live, the more sins they commit, 
as we have seen already; and the greater the number of their 
sins, the more severe will be their eternal punishment. There- 
fore it is better for them to go down to hell a day, a year, ten, or 
twenty years sooner, than for them to live longer on earth, and 
increase a hundred thousand fold the eternal punishment that is 
in store for them in any case. Therefore God confers a favor on 

> Vlrga tua et baculus tuns : Ipsa me consolata sunt.— Ps. xxll. 4: 

* Melius est peccatoribus morl quam vivere.— S. Amb. lib. de bono mortis. 

» Quod facis, fac citius.— Jobn xiit. 27. 

Blindness and Obduracy as a Punishment of Sin. i -^o 

them (but alas, what a wretched favor it is!) by hastening their 

sinners, who are blind, and hardened, and obdurate in vice, conclusion 
listen to me now, in whatever part of the world you may be; ahl en'ed^'^'*' 
open your eyes, I beg of you! give up sin, try to get the grace ners.'*'"' 
of repentance, which will be refused to no one as long as he 
lives; be converted to God, and at once; do not wait^'till to- 
morrow, for to-morrow your case will be still more desperate! 
But what is the use of my talking to them? They have neither 
hearing, nor sight, nor understanding any longer. They can 
indeed do penance and amend, for that is never impossible; but 
they will never do it, because they will never wish to do it. 
"'Let them alone," said Christ to His disciples of the hardened 
Pharisees, ''they are blind." ^ merciful Lord, must we let 
them alone? And what will become of them? They will be 
lost forever. Must we, then, look on while they are going on 
the way to hell, and not stretch out a hand to save them? Yes, 
let them alone; let them go to tlieir destruction, because they 
are blind; take no further trouble concerning them; any labor 
spent in trying to convert them is fruitless; tliev are blind. 
"Let them alone!" fearful words! words that are not 
words, but rather hail-storms and thunderbolts! Let hardened 
sinners alone! Is there, then, no more hope of their conversion? 
Are they rejected by God and condemned to hell? Then all I 
can do is to say to them, alas! I pity you; I pity your miserable 
state, your precious souls, and, unless a miracle of grace is 
worked to bring you back again to the liglit, I pity you on 
account of the unhappy eternity that awaits you! 

Finally, my dear brethren, I have a word to say to von, for ^^^orta^^^n 
I hope that not one of you is in that miserable state of blind- TearersT' 
ness, and, in fact, the only object I have aimed at in this sermon a^'oi^sin. 
IS to give 3^ou a salutary warning that may deter you from ever 
falling into it. Ah, may God keep you and me from it! " AYalk 
v/hilst you have the lights "» now, whilst your eyes are open, 
walk carefully in the exact observance of the divine commands- 
work out your salvation in fear, humility, and child-like love of 
God; hate and avoid sin alone above all things, as far as you 
can; see that you never get into a habit of sinning, for that is 
the next step to obduracy. If you are already in the habit of 
sin, and trammelled by an inordinate love of any creature, oh 

* Sinlte illos ; caeci sunt.— >fatt. xv. 14. 

' Ambulate dum lucem habetis.— Jobn xli. 35. 

Prayer to 

God to save 
all from fall- 
ing into 
that state. 

140 Blindness arid Obduracy as a Punishment of Sin, 

then, at once make a heroic resohition, and by speedy penance 
free yourselves from that state, '' that the darkness overtake 
you not." ' Have you done penance already? Then keep to it, 
and see that you never commit another mortal sin. Perhaps 
the next sin you commit may be the one whicli will so excite the 
anger and indignation of God, that, according to His inscrutable 
and at the same time most just decrees. He will withdraw His 
light from you, and leave you in blindness, a prey to your own 
desires. Say to yourselves every morning and evening: How 
many sins have I not committed during my life? Is it not time 
for me to leave off sinning now? 

And Thou, God of mercy. Source of all good, if there are 
any here present who have often excited Thy anger by sin; if 
there are any who have made a habit of a certain vice; if there 
are any who, being in the state of sin, have not yet done penance, 
btlt continue to offend Thee ; for all these, Lord, I may still 
send up a petition to Thee, God of mercy; not in the words, 
** Blind the heart of this people, " but in those of Thy penitent 
servant David, *' Lord rebuke me not in Thy anger; " punish 
them not in Thy wrath, so as to take away the eyesJ of their souls! 
If Thou art determined to be angry with them, and I must con- 
fess with them that we have deserved Thy anger a hundred 
times, then pour out the vials of Thy wrath on them, but of 
that wrath which St. Bernard prayed for from Thee: ''I wish, 
Father of mercy, that Thou shouldst be angry with me; but 
with the anger that brings back the eri-ing soul to the right path, 
and does not drive it off the road altogether."' If Thou hast 
resolved to punish them, if Thou canst no longer overlook their 
wickedness, then take in hand Thy fatherly rod, and not the 
sword of Thy wrath; punish them therewith as Thou wiU; 
avenge Thyself on their honor, on their bodies, on their temporal 
goods; but have pity on their souls, that they may not be hard- 
ened! Send them all the trials of this life; let all the calamities 
of the world befall them; visit them with the most painful ill- 
nesses. There are their heads; hast Thou no heaviness, pain, or 
toothache for tliem? There are their eyes; hast Thou no sores 
or swelling for them? There are their ears; hast Thou no deaf- 
ness for them? There are their faces; hast Thou no cancer or 
ulcer to deform them? There are their hands and feet; canst 

» Ut non vos tenebrae comprehendant.— John xli. 35, 

' Volo Pater misericordiarum irascarls mlhl ; sed ilia Ira, qua corrlgls devium, non qua 
extrudls de via. 

Blindness and Obdui^acy as a Punishment of Sin. 141 

Thou not send them some suffering? Their hearts; canst Thou 
not visit them with trouble and sadness? Their whole bodies; 
hast Thou no pains or afflictions for them; nohunger or thirst? 
There are their consciences; canst Thou not send a v/crm to gnaw 
at them, and torment them day and night, until they are com- 
pelled to return to Thee? All these things they will suffer rather 
than tliat terrible blindness! Lord, save them from that! 
Perliaps, my dear brethren, you will again be shocked at my 
prayer, and think it a despairing one? But it is not so; it is a 
prayer that every one may Join with me in sending up to heaven. 
For all the chastisements I liave enumerated would be far better A 
and more salutary for us, than that we should by repeated 
rins at length fall into hardness of heart, which is the greatest ' 
evil of all. 

But we must try to deserve neither one punishment nor the Resoiation 
other, and now% while it is still time, throw ourselves on our 3^?''°^'* ^ 
knees before our good God with contrite hearts, and say to Him: 

God of mei-cy. Thou hast here before Thee one who has often 
despised Thee and committed sin after sin. Ah, I detest my 
sins and repent with my whole heart of having ever offended 
Thee! How many there are w^ho, although their sins are less 
numerous than mine, are now in a state of blindness, or are 
actually in hell! I thank Thee that Thou hast allowed my 
conscience to torment me, and hast not withdrawn Thy light 
from me. my God, I will sin no more: not another sin shall 

1 commit! I offer myself completely to Thee, with all I have 
that is pleasing to me on earth; I submit willingly to Thy 
fatherly chastisements. Punish me according to Thy good 
pleasure with Thy dear children, by all imaginable crosses; 
helped by Thy grace I will bear them all in patience and humil- 
ity for Thy sake. But one thing I beg of Thee with Thy 
faithful servant David, ''Enlighten ray eyes, that. I may never 
sleep in death; " ' that my mind may never be perverted. Pre- 
serve and increase in me Thy supernatural light, that I may 
always walk in the way of Thy commandments; turn the eyes 
of my mind to Thee and to heaven, that after this life 1 may 
come to the full enjoyment of Thy light in a happy eternity. 

^ Illumlna oculos meos ne unquam abdormiam In morte.— Ps. ill. 4. 



142 Blindness and Obduracy as a Punishment of Sin, 

Anotlier Introduction to the same sermon for the ninth Sun- 
day after Pentecost, 

Kunc autem ahscondita snnt ab oculis tuis. — Luke xix. 42. 
'^Bnt now they are hidden from thy eyes." 

Alas! nnhappy city of Jerusalem, has it come to this with 
thee at last, that thy enemies shall surround thee, and beat thee 
flat to the ground, and not leave in thee a stone upon a stone? 
But that is the least of the evils in store for thee; that was not 
the reason why the Son of God wept through pity when He saw 
thee. Oh! " if thou also hadst known," and received the light 
that shone so brilliantly for thee in the days of thy visitation; it 
would still be well with the souls that are in thee. But since 
thou hast refused this light, thy condition is desperate: '' Kow 
they are hidden from thy eyes; " and will always remain so. 
Thou wilt die and be eternally lost in thy blindness! This was 
that most terrible punishment inflicted on the obdurate Jews. 
■which drew tears from the eyes of Jesus Christ. 1 have already 
treated, my dear brethren, etc.^ — continues as above. 








God is always the Patron and Protector of sinners: and for 
that very reason they should at once be converted and do \)en' 
'Ance.— Preached on the feast of St. Mattheiv, Apostle. 


Euntes autem- discite qxdd est: Misericordiam volo. — Matt, 
ix. 13. 

'^Go then and learn what this meaneth: I will have mercy 
and not sacrifice.^ 


Therefore sinners can find no better Protector than Jesus 
Christ their meekest Saviour. You mav murmur iind find fault, 
you envious Pharisees, as long as you please, Jesus will still re- 
ceive repentant sinners; nay, lie will defend and protect them, 
and rejoice with the whole court of heaven at the conversion of 
a single one of them. .Seeing Him sitting at table with public 
sinners, }^ou complain, and say to His disciples: *' Why doth 
your master eat with publicans and sinners? " But He answers 
and says: '' They that are in health need not a phj^sician, but 
they that are ill. Go then and learn what this meaneth; I will 
have mercy and not sacrifice. For I am not come to call the 
just, but sinners." Be of good heart then, sinners! We 
have still the same merciful God in heaven, who is ready at 


No man 
■w^ul'l bear 
from his 
equal the 
iusults that 
God bears 
with from 

144 God Protects the Sinner on Accou7it of Penance, 

any moment to receive you to His friendship. If you only 
come to Him with penitent hearts. He will be as He was before, 
vour Patron and Protector. Nav, He has protected von wliile 
yon were actnally in the state of sin, that you might be enabled 
to do penance. To-da}^ my dear brethren, I will speak of this 
Vy'onderfnl goodness of God in protecting sinners, a goodness 
that is enough to move a heart of stone; and I will speak of it 
partly to console those who have already done penance, ar.d 
partly to encourage those who are in the state of sin, to be con- 
verted at once. I say therefore: 

Plan of Discourse. 

God is always the Patron and Protector of sinners; and for that 
very reason they should at once be converted and do ijenance. Such 
is the zohole suhject of the present ser7no7i, or rather meditation. 

Most merciful God, who art so good to sinners, touch with 
Thy powerful grace the hearts of all sinners, that the medita- 
tion on this Thy mercy may make them surrender to Thee at 
once. Help us herein by tiiy intercession, Mary, refuge of 
sinners, and you, holy guardian angels. 

With reason does the Prophet David say, when meditating on 
the goodness and patient mercy of God: ** It is good to confide 
in the Lord, rather than to have confidence in man; it is good 
to trust in the Lord, rather than to trust in princes." ' Far 
better is it to put one's trust in the great King of heaven, than 
in all the potentates of earth. And certainly, if the sinner h;id 
to do with a man like himself, and had offended him a twentietli 
part as much as he has offended the great God, he might well 
despair of being forgiven or being again received into the 
friendship of the offended person, nay, he might cry out with 
the fratricide Cain, '*My iniquity is greater than that I may 
deserve pardon."^ At all events, he would have little good to 
hope from the man whom he offended. So touchy and sensitive 
are we at the smallest offence; and even the lowliest and poorest 
are not an exception to this rule. Every one is on the defensive, 
as best he may, against him who tries to injure him; and satis- 
faction for an injury is sought at once, either by punishing the 
offending party, or, if that cannot be done in reality, at least by 
entertaining a desire for revenge. 

» Bonum est oonfldere In Domino, quara conCderein homlne: bonum est sperare in 
Domino, quam sperare in principibus.— Ps. cxvii. 8, 0. 
2 Major est iniquitas mea, quam ut veniam merear.— Gen. iv. IS. 

God Protects the Sinner on Account of Penance, 145 

But what a noise is made about it, if a subject is guilty of any 
grievous offence against his sovereign, even if he commits it 
through mere inadvertence, to say nothing of publicly ill-treat- 
ing his king or prince by addressing him in abusive terms, or 
even st liking him! In fact, it is impossible to imagine that any 
sensible man could act so outrageously; and if he were to do so, 
it would be considered the greatest folly in him to entertain the 
least hope of mercy and pardon, while it would be looked on as 
an impossibility for him ever to gain the favor of his offended 
sovereign. The wheel and gallows are not severe enough to 
punish the crime of which he is guilty. If a malefactor of the 
kind were flying from justice, and I were to meet him in his 
flight and to call out to him: Where-are you going? AVhy are 
you in such a hurry? You need not be afraid; you may go at 
once to the king's palace, and into his private room, and in spite 
of what you have done to offend him, he will undertake to pro- 
tect you; he will not allow the ofl3cersof the law to hurt you; he 
will defend you against all your accusers, and. will treat you 
with the greatest kindness; what would you think of that, my 
dear brethren? The poor wretch would look on me as more of 
a fool than he is of a miscreant; and he would not lose a moment 
in listening to me, but would hurry off as fast as his legs could 
carry him. And, indeed, he would be perfectly in the right; if 
I were in his place I would do the same. For if I were guilty 
of such an offence against my sovereign, I could not hope that 
he would overlook it, much less that he would protect me, or 
honor me with his friendship. According to law he who inter- 
codes for one who is guilty of a crime against the person of the 
sovereign is declared infamous. Nay, there was once a certain 
nobleman of high rank in France, who was imprisoned for 
twenty years, merely because he happened to relate in company 
that he had a dream in which it seemed to him that he killed 
the king. So sensitive'are earthly potentates, that they cannot 
bear any one even to dream of injuring them. 

*' Exceedingly wonderful, Lord, is Thy patience,'* ' says 
Oleaster with reason. What no king or prince v»^ould bear with 
from his subject, nor any private man from his equal, nor even one 
swineherd from another, that Thou bearest daily, with the great- 
est patience and witli uninterrupted goodness, from sinners. 
All creatures are ready at every moment to act as the ministers 
of Thy justice, and to avenge on presumptuous sinners the 

* mirabilis valde est, Domine, patientia tua. 

Much less 
would a 
a king bear 
with such 
insults from 
one of his 

It Is God 
alone who 
bears with 
and protects 
the sinner. 

h I 

In spite of 
the insults 
the sinner 

146 God Protects the Smner on AccGtint cf Penance. 

insults offered their Creditor, as Tjiou Thyself savest: ''The 
whole world shall fight with him against the iinwise.'' ' The 
whole univei-se is ready to take up arms against foolish and 
wicked sinners; hut TIjou, Lord, who alone art oliendod and 
insulted. Thou art the onh' One with whom wicked sinners can 
be sure of finding refuge, and to whom they can fly, even vviule 
they are in tlie state of sin, for defence and protection, and, if 
they only desire it, for full pardon for their crimes, and. com- 
plete restoration to Tliy grace and favor. Yes, good God, 
such is really the case; and how often have I not found it so 
during my life! Thou, an infinitely great and mighty monarch, 
I, such a miserable worm of the earth! Thou hast not the least 
need of me and all my belongings, whilst I am in constant need 
of Thy help and support at all moments; and yet (ah, how fear- 
ful to think of it!) how have I dared to treat Thee! What 
fearful insults I have offered Thy divine Majesty, before whom 
the greatest princes of heaven tremble! 

As often as I committed a mortal sin, which was the case 
nearly eveiy day for many years, hi thought, word, and act, I 
offers Him. despised Thy divine Majesty, and trampled Thy law under foot, 
and before Thy very eyes, while Thou wert actually looking at 
me, I have dared to say, I will not serve; I will not do as Thou 
commandest. Thou hast spoken to my conscience, and said, 
think, poor mortal, of what you are doing; if you carry out your 
present intention, I will disinlierit you, blot your name out of 
the book of life, and close the gate of heaven against you. But 
I have given Thee an insolent answer by my rebellious will, and 
have dared to say to Thee that I do not want Thy heaven, and 
that I will act, think, and speak as I please. Thou hast gone 
still farther in order to deter me from sin. Woe to you, unhappy 
mortal! Thou hast said; if you despise Me in that way, I will 
condemn you to the flames of hell, which are ready to receive 
every wicked sinner, and there you will burn with the demons 
for all eternity. But, by my conduct at least, the only ansvv^er I 
gave Thee, was: I am not afraid of hell; I vrill commit this sin in 
spite of Thy threats, nor have I the least intention of abstaining 
from what I know to be displeasing to Thee. my Lord and 
my God, is it possible that Thou hast borne with such conduct? 
Is it possible that Thou hast had patience with a vile wretch, 
who has thus dared to insult Thee, and whom Thou hast 
at any moment completely in Thy poAver, and that Thou hast 

1 Puffnabit pro illo orbis terrarum contra Insensatos.— Sap. v. 21. 


God Protects the Sinner on Account of Penance. 147 * 

let him go without punishment? Is it possible that I am still 
alive, and am not really in hell? Yes, I still live, and, as I now 
hope with child-like confidence, I enjoy Thy favor and friend- 
ship; for Thou wilt never, during all eternity, remember all 
those insults I have offered Thee. 

Alas! how often have not Thy creatures been ready to avenge -A^^icrea- 
the insults I offered Thy divine Majesty, while I was still in^eadyto 
that unhappy state in which I declared myself Thy sworn ene- take ven- 
my, and rebellious to Thy authority. How often has not the fhe°Sn*^er 
earth been on the point of opening beneath my feet, and swal- but God 
lowing me up! How often has not water longed to engulf me p^°'^'^ 
like another Jonas! How often did not the lightning attempt 
to strike me to earth! How often did not the heavens long to 
send down fire to consume me! How often has not the cruel 
demon waited eagerly for a sign from Thee, thatlie might hurry 
me off to hell! But Thou, great God, who hast been so in- 
sulted by me, didst not allow Thy creatures to have their way; 
Thou hast protected me against them, and like a loving shep- 
herd Thou hast run after me. Thy lost sheep, till Thou wert 
tired, and hast called out to me offering me Thy grace: Return 
... and I will receive ihee." ' And at last, after one or two 
sighs of repentance on my part. Thou hast taken me on Thy 
shoulders, and with the greatest joy and gladness, as if Thoa 
hadst found some extraordinary treasure, hast brought me back 
to Thy own fold amongst Thy chosen flock, just as if I had 
never done anything to displease Thee and had always been Thy 
loving child; and Thou hast heaped on me countless benefits 
and graces. Most merciful God, what shall I think and say? 
What a monster I must be, if, after all this goodness on Thy 
part, I do not love Thee with my whole heart above all things! 
lS"or am I the only one to whom Thou hast thus shown Thy 
mercy; Thou actest in a similar manner every day towards 
countless thousands of wicked sinners like myself. Alas, what 
terrible sins are committed every hour and moment, by day and 
by night, in every part of the world! What pride and vanity 
there are amongst people! What injustice and deceit! What 
. drunkenness and intemperance! What quarrelling and conten- 
tion! What fearful cursing, swearing, and blasphemy! What 
superstition and dealings with the devil! .What profanation of 
churches and of days consecrated to God! What slander, cal- 
umny, and detraction! What disgraceful immorality is pra(4tised 
^ Revertere, et ego susciplum te.— Jerem. ill. 1. 

Even the 

would take 
oa tl:«i sin- 
ner, if G(xl 
did not pre- 
vent them. 

148 God Protects the Sinner on Account 0/ Pe fiance. 

by people of .ill classes, married and single, in houses, in public 
places, in hidden corners, and even in the public streets! And 
there are many who go on committing sins of thjit kind from 
one Easter to the other, and tiiev even increase their siult bv 
making bad confessions and Communions, since they never j^ive 
the least sign of amendment; for he who makes no difficnUy 
about committing one sin, will have no scruple in committino- 
anotlier, and thus sin is hea2)ed on sin most recklessly. And 
Thou, great God, art silent, while all these abominations are 
being perpetrated before Thy very eyes I But why do I say that 
Thou art silent? Thou protectest those miscreants, Thou be- 
Btowest Thy benefits on them; Thou dcfendest them, in the hope 
and expectation that they will at last enter into themselves, and 
do sincere penance, and be converted to Thee. 

If Thou wert to empower one of Tby holiest servants to pro- 
nounce sentence on sinners, and to carry it out: oh! woe to 
them, how miserably thev would fare. And in truth, mv dear 
brethren, the elect in heaven, although they are very anxious 
for our salvation, and pray constantly and desire with all tlieir 
hearts that we may one day share in their endless joy, and praise 
God with them; yet they are enemies of sin, because it oi)2)oses, 
embitters, and angers God, whom they love above all things, and 
they would not Iiave a moment's patience with it, nor refrain 
one second from taking up arms against the sinner, if such were 
the will of God, in order to avenge the insult offered to their 
Creator. Already in the very dawn of creation, when Lucifer 
with the countless \host that followed him gave way to a proud 
thought and rebelled against God, St. Michael, the archangel, 
cried out at once. Who is like to God? Who will dare to oppose 
the Most High? And at once the rebel angels fell like a flash of 
lightning from heaven into the pit of hell. And what shall I 
say of those holy servants of God who are still on earth? Al- 
though, like all poor sinners, they are exposed to the imminent 
danger of sin from their own weakness, and therefore stand in 
need, like them, of the grace, patience, and mercy of God; al- 
though they are ready to spare no labor or trouble to' gain souls; 
although they are adorned with many virtues and seem to be on 
fire with love of God and of their neighbor; yet they cannot 
bear wicked sinners, and, like the brother of the Prodigal Son, 
T^ho, when he found that his scapegrace of a brother was receiv- 
ed wjth open arms by his father, was so enraged that he refused 
to partake in the feast that was prepared for the occasion, they 

God Protects the Sin7ier on Account of Peiiance, 149 

complain almost to God of the too great patience He displays in 
bearing with sinners, and call on the divine justice to avenge 
tbe insults offered it. And woe to the world if the Almighty 
were always to hear their prayers and take vengeance on sinners! 
How often would it not have been utterly destroyed by sin and 
vice! We see examples enough of this in the Old and in the 
New Testaments. 

Consider the example of the Prophet Jonas, how he sat alone 
in the desert, reduced to the verge of despair almost by anger 
and grief, as I have mentioned briefly on another occasion. 
''And Jonas was exceedingly troubled and was angry.'' ' Why 
was he angry? Through zeal against sinners, and so to speak 
against God Himself, on acount of His goodness and mercy to- 
wards them. The Lord had commanded him to announce the 
inevitable destruction of Ninive within forty days. '•' He cried 
and said: Yet forty days, andNinive shall be destroyed ." =" This 
fearful prophecy threw the Ninivites into the greatest consterna- 
tion; full of sorrow and repentance for their sins, they put aside 
their magnificent apparel, clothed themselves with sackcloth, 
covered their heads with ashes, and fasted till evening with 
their children, sheep, and cattle, while nothing was to be heard 
tbrcmghout that vast city but cries to heaven for mercy and 
pardon. And behold, the good God, with whom alone the sin- 
ner who desires to repent is sure of finding refug;e, moved by the 
penance and humihations of the people, withdrew His threat, 
and commanded the avenging angel to sheathe the sword that 
was drawn to punish them. V'And God had mercy with re- 
gard to the evil which He had said, that He would do them, and 
Ho did it not.'" Meanwhile Jonas was awaiting, in painful ex- 
pectation, the fortieth day, which was to see the accomplishment 
of his prophecy; he looked up to heaven and down to the earth 
to see if there was any sign of the approaching calamity; the 
heavens, he thought, must open and rain down fire on the god- 
less city, or the sea will inundate it, or the earth will open and 
swallow it up with its inhabitants. But none of these anticipa- 
tions was verified. The heavens were serene as before; the sea 
remained within bounds; the earth showed no sign of disturb- 
ance; the fortieth day passed, and Ninive was still standing 

' Affllctus est Jonas afflictlone magna, et Iratus est.— Jonas iv. 1. 
^ Clamavlt et dixit: adhuc quadra{?iuta dies, et Ninlve subvertetur.— Ibid. iil. 4. 
J Et misertus est Deus super maUtiam, quam locutus fuerat, ut faceret els, et non fecit.— 
* Ibid. 10. 

We have an 
example of 
tbis in the 

T50 God Protects the Shmer on Accoimt of Penance, 

without having suffered any punishment. That was what Jonas 
in his zeal could not bear: "Jonas was exceedingly troubled and 
was angry." And he prayed to tlie Lord, and said: I beseech 
Thee, Lord, is not this what I said, when I was yet in my own 
country.'" Was I not right when I tried to escape from the 
duty of preaching? **' Therefore I went before to flee into 
Tharsis; for I know that Thou art a gracious and merciful God, 
patient, and of such compassion, and easy to forgive evil,"" and 
that Thou canst not bear to punish sinners. Now, if I preach 
to the people of Thy goodness and mercy, they will only become 
worse, and if I threaten them v/ith the severity of Thy justice, 
what better will matters be? For one or two tears of repentance 
are enouirh to satisfv and content Thee. Lord I am tired of life; 
** I beseech Thee, take my life from me: for it is better for me 
to die than to live;" ' it is better for me to leave this world, tliun 
to be consumed with anger at the wickedness of men. But how 
does God, whom alone the Ninivites offended, act? See with 
what goodness and kindness He takes their part, while the an- 
gry Jonas is crying out for vengeance on them. '* Dost thou 
think thou hast reason to be angry?" * said lie. You are sorry 
because a worthless ivy was destroyed. *' Thou art grieved for 
the ivy, for which thou hast not labored, nor made it to grow; 
which in one night came up, and in one night perished." ^ You 
are so sorry for it that you have become weary of life, and you 
say that the worm should have spared it, " and shall not I spare 
Kinive, that great city, \\\ which there are more than a hundred 
and twenty Ihoiisand persons, that know not liow to distwgnisk 
between their right hand and their left? ""and whom I have 
created for eternal happiness? Thus the Kinivites found with 
the God whom they had offended the grace and protection they 
would have sought in vain even from the holiest of men. 
From the Q.^^ i^.j(-| ^n almost similar dispute with His Prophet Isaias, as 
^^.^^ St. Jerome says, writing on the twenty-sixth chapter of Isaias. 
God called His servant to Him, as if to take counsel with him 

1 Et oravit ad Dominum, et dixit: obsecro Domlne, numquld non hoc est verbum meum 
cum adhuc essem in terra mea?— Jonas iv. a. 

2 Propter hoc prreoccupavi ut fuj^erem In Tharsis ; scio enim quia tu Deiis clemens et 
misericors es, patJens, et raiiltas miserationis, et i^nosceus super raalitta.— Ibid. 3. 

3 Tolle, qna^so, aniinam meara a ine : quia melior est mihi mors quara vita — Ibid. 3. 
■* PPtasne bene irasceris tu?— Ibid. 9. 

» lu doles super hroderam. in qua non laborasti, neque fecisti ut cresceret, quae sub una 
nocte nata est, et sub una nocte pnriit. — Ibid. 10. 

« Et ejro non parcam Ninive cl^itati maj?nff', in qua sunt plus quam centum vlginti milUa 
hominum, qui nesclunt quid sit inter dexteram et sinistram suam.— Ibid. 11. 

God Protects the Sinner on Account of Penance. 151 

as to wliat was to be done in a certain case. See, He said, how 
the wicked people despise Me; they have nearly all fallen into 
idolatry and shamefully abandoned Me: what am I to do with 
them? I think I must still bear with them patiently and not 
exclude them from My goodness: ''Let us have pity on the 
wicked." * AYhat do you think of that? What? answers Isaias; 
have pity on them? Certainly not. Where, Lord, is Thy 
justice? '' Let Thy hand be exalted, and let them not see: let 
the envious people see and be confounded: and let fire devour 
Thy enemies."'^ Raise Thy almighty hand against them, and let 
the earth swallow them up. But God does not change His de- 
cision. " Let us have pity on the wicked," He says again. 
But, replies ihe zealous Prophet, ^' Thou hast done that before, 
and what has it profited Thee?" ''Thou hast been favorable 
to the nation, Lord, Thou hast been favorable to the nation; 
art Thou glorified ?" ^ Thou hast been good to the people, and 
liave they not become worse? Raise Thy hand, Lord, and 
let them feel it, and learn to know Thee. Hear this, mv dear 
brethren; the Prophet cries out for vengeance dtt sinners, 
and the patient and merciful God says: " Let us have pity on 
the wicked." 

In the same way St. Jerome considers how the Prophet ^^"^ ^^^ 
Habacuc complains to God of His excessive goodness: " Thy David. 
eyes are too pure too behold evil, and Thou canst not look on 
iniquity; why lookest Thou on them that do unjust things, and 
holdest Thy peace when the wicked devoureth the man that is 
more just than himself?"* His meaning was: Thy e3'es, 
Lord, are. pure; Thy holiness is infinite; how canst Thou cast 
Thy pure eyes on the abominations of men? And Thou ai't 
silent, too, when beholding them! Sins are multiplied daily, 
and Thou holdest Thy peace! The wicked oppress the right- 
eous, but Thou holdest Thy peace! Faith and justice are 
trampled on, and Thou sayest nothing! Pride, impurit}', and 
intemperance are in the ascendant, and Thou lookest on in 
silence! Truly, the Prophet could not understand that. Even. 
King David, the meekest man of his time, agrees with those 
other saints in this point, and often expresses a wish that God 

* Misereamur Impio.— Is. xxvi. 10. 

^ Exaltetur manus tua et non videant : videant et confundantur'zelantes pcpull, et ifmis 
hostes tuos devoret.— Ibid, 11. 

' Indulsisti genti Dorairie, Indulsisti genti : numquid ploriflcatus es?-lbld. 1.5. 

' Mundl sunt oculltui ne videas malum, et respicere ad inlquitatem nou poteris; quare 
respicis super iniqua agentes, et taces devorante impio justiorem se ?— Habac. i. 13. 

From the 
Apostles of 


152 God Protects the Sinner on Account of Penance. 

should moderate His goodness and mercy somewhat, lest His 
honor and glor}^ should suffer loss. Hence he burst forth y,ith 
the prayer/ *' Show forth Thy wonderful mercies;"' that is 
as St. Angnstinc explains, make Thy mercy more rare, Lord. 
Do not make it so common in the world, lest it become too 
ciieap. Thou art so generous in showing it, that men do not 
value it, because it is so common. But woe to Thee, David, if 
God had heard thy prayer! What w^ould have become of thee 
after thy grievous fall into sin? 

And to go to the Xew Law, the Law of grace; how were men 
on tlie one side and God on the other disposed towards sinners? 
I am not surprised that the envious Scribes and Pharisees mur- 
mured against the public sinner, Magdalene, and that they 
wished to stone the woman taken in adultery; but both those 
sinners were protected by Our Lord, although they had not 
asked Him to protect them. Even the Apostles, who were so 
long in the school of the merciful Saviour, often called out for 
punishment on sinners. '*'Lord," cried out James and -John, 
filled with indignation at a city of the Samaritans that had 
refused to receive them, " wilt thou that we command fire to 
come down from heaven and consume them?"* No, answered 
our patient Redeemer; that is not the way in which My heavenly 
Father acts with those who offend Him: "And turning He 
rebuked them, saying: You know not of what spirit you are. 
The Son of man came not to destroy souls, but to save.'" 
**Lord," I hear Peter crying out in the Garden, filled with anger 
and indignation, and holding a drawn sword in his hand, when 
the godless Jewish rabble came foward to seize his divine Master, 
"Lord, shall we strike with the sword? " * And without waiting 
for an answer, he began at once to use his sword, and w^ould 
not have ceased if the meek Saviour had not commanded him 
to put his sword back into the scabbard. Thus Christ actually 
defended those who had bound Him with chc^ins and were about 
to drag Him away; nay, He returned them good for evil; for He 
miraculously healed the ear of the high-priest's servant, which 
had been cut off: ''And when He had touched his ear He 
healed him."' 

* Miriflca miserlcordias tuas.— Ps. xvi. 7. 

' Domine, vis dicimus ut ignis descendat de coelo et consuraat illos ?— Luke ix. 54. 
» Et eon versus increpavit illos, dlcens : nescitis cujus spiritus estis. Filius hominis non 
Tenit anlmas perderesed sal vare.— Ibid. 55, 50. 

* Domine, si percutimus In pladio ?— Ibid. xxii. 49. 

' Etcutn tetigissec aurlculam ejus, sanavit eum— Ibid. 51. 

God Protects the Sinner on Accou7tt of Penance. 153 

" Father," He cried out in His death agony on the cross, 
while His murderers were mocking and jeering at Him, '' Father, 
for""ive them, for they -know not what they do." ' Oh, what ex- 
cessive mercy on the part of our God ! But, Lord, dost Thou 
not see that all creatures are crying out for vengeance on Thy 
murderers, and j^et Thou prayest for them? The sun w^itli- 
draws its light from them; the heavens thunder and send down 
lisrh tiling to destroy them; the rocks are rent, and the earth, 
indignant at their impiety, opens to swallow them up; the very 
dead rise out of tlieir graves to accuse the wretches before the 
jndgment-seat of God; but Thou dost not seek to be avenged. 
Nav, Thou art the onlv one that defendest them against the 
wrath of Thy creatures! Thou defendest them against Thy 
heavenly Father, in whose hand Thou probably didst see the 
tlumder-bolt ready to strike them. Thou excusest their most 
inexcusable sin by alleging their ignorance, although it was a 
most gross ignorance. Father, forgive them, they do not quite 
understand wliat they are doing. And Thou w^ert praying then, 
not only for those who were actually putting Thee to death, but 
also for all future sinners! 

Is it not the case, my dear brethren, that we ourselves some- 
times feel annoyed when we hear of or see people leading reckless 
and un -Christian lives? We often look on it as an intolerable 
injustice that such wickedness should bo so long allowed to 
remain unpunished. For my part, my God, although I am 
in more need of Thy mercv than anv one else, vet I must ac- 
knowledge that, if the matter depended on me, I should not have 
patience to bear with tlie many grievous sins that are daily com- 
mitted against Thee. But in the w^ords of Saul to David, I 
must confess that, "Thou art more just than L"^ Thou, 
Lord, art more gracious, meek, and merciful than I. Thou say- 
est to me by Thy Prophet Isaias, know, men, that I am far 
different from you: " For My thoughts are not your thoughts: 
nor your ways My ways."" And, as Theodoret say^ Thou 
meanest tliereby, My w^ay of acting is widely different from 
yours: you hate Me, and I love you: you fly from Me, and I run 
after you; you wage war against Me, and My only defence is to 
load vou with benefits: you run dailv on the road to hell, and 
My only idea is to bi'ing you back on the road to heaven; you 

' Pater, dimitte mis, non enim seinnt quid faciunt.— Luke xxili. 34. 

^ Justlor tu es quam e?o.— I. Kinprs xxiv. 18. 

^ Non oaim cojfitationes meae, cogltationes vestraa : neque visb vestrae, \1a3 mcae.— Is. Iv. 8. 

Christ on ' 


the Cross 1 

prays for |, 

His mur- 


derers And 


(1.11 sinners. 

We, too, And 
it hard to 
this pa- 
tience and 
mercy on 
the part of 

It is not to 
be expects 
from man. 

154 God Protects the Sinner on Account of Penance, 

erect on earth prisons for evil-doers, and make wheels and 
gibbets to put them to death; tlie houses that I cause to be 
built for Me on earth are houses of reconciliation, and places 
of refuge for the wicked; My churches, altars, and confessionals 
are always open and ready to give refuge, pardon, and grace to 
sinners. mercy! goodness! I can say no more! That 
Thou, great God, shouldst act so lovingly towards those wlio 
love Thee with their whole hearts; that Thou shouldst pour out 
Thy benefits on tliose who keep Thy commandments and try to 
do Thy will in all tilings, that I can understand; but that Thou 
shouldst be so good to the wicked, who despise Thee, mock at 
Thee, trample Thy law under foot, and often continue for years 
in the habit of sin, foro^etting Thee altosrether, ve anirels, 
that is what you may well be surprised at, that is what I cannot 

Now I know what David meant when he sought to do good 
to some one of the house of Saul. '• Is there any one left of the 
house of Saul," he asked, "that I may show the mercy of God 
unto him?"' Mark, my dear brethren, these words, *' the 
mercy of God." Why does he use them? Did not David wish 
to be merciful to the descendants of his enemy? Yes. And 
why then did he not say, *' my mercy," if so? But he was per- 
fectly right in t^e words he used ; for, generally speaking, our 
human m^rcy is shown only to those whom we love, or who do 
us good, dr from whom we hope to receive benefits; while to do 
good to those who hate, persecute, and injure us requires the 
mercy of God. Yes, Lord, Thou art the only One who show- 
est such wonderful mercy even to Thy worst enemies, that Thou 
dost not allow Thyself to be wearied or overcome by any number 
of sins! Be Thou forever blessed, God of infinite goodness! 
How can I retui;n Thee adequate thanks for Thy great patience 
and astonishing mercy to sinners? If Thou hadst not borne 
with me, I should long since have been with the demons in 
This very ^j^ sinners, what a consolation it is for you and me to have 


shouirtmake ^^ ^^ ^^^^^^ ^uch a merciful God! But must not that very mercy 
sinners re- move US at once to -give up sin, to amend our lives, to return to 
Him by sincere repentance, and to love with all our hearts such 
a good God? "Despisest thou the riches of His goodness, aiul 
patience, and long suffering," cries out to us the holy Apostle 

» Nnmquld supcrest allqnls de domo Saul, ut faciam cum eo mlserlcordiam Del.— II. Kinj-s 


God Protects the Sinner on AccoM7it of Penance. 155 

St. Paul; " knowest thou not that the benignity of God leadeth 
thee to penaTice." ' Will you not at last see that the mercy of 
God should impel you to amend? If not, you are not human, 
but are as hard and insensible as stone and iron. 
Kosweid writes of a certain hermit who was so long assailed shown by 

flu PXHWlDlf* 

by grievous temptations, that he was reduced to despair, left his 
solitude, and went back into Egypt to indulge freely in the 
pleasures of a worldly life. He soon became inflamed with love 
for the daughter of a heathen priest, and demanded her of her 
father in marriage. The priest consulted his idol about the 
matter. No, answered the devil, speaking by the mouth of the 
idol, you must not give your daughter to that man until he has 
abjured his God and renounced his baptism. The poor des- 
pairing man found this condition very hard to fulfil; but liis 
foolish passion was so great, that he consented at last, and re- 
nounced his baptism, his God, and the saints, as the devil re- 
quired of him. (0 impure love, to what a degree of madness 
thou canst bring men!) The priest went back to his idol to 
announce the acceptance of the condition; but the evil spirit 
was not yet satisfied; you must not give him your daughter yet, 
he said, for although he has really abandoned and renounced his 
God, yet God has not renounced him; He still protects and de- 
fends him. When the hermit heard tliis, he came to his senses 
at once. Alas! miserable wretch that I am, he cried out w^itli 
bitter tears, what do I hear? what have I done? Good God, is 
it possible? Miscreant that I am, I have completely abandoned 
Thee, and renounced Thy friendship forever! I have denied 
and abjured Thee, and still Thou hast not forsaken me! still _^ 
Thou favorest me with Thy protectioi;^! my heart, why dost 
thou not burst with grief and sorrow? '^ The good God helps 
me <?ven now, although I have sinned so grievously; and He has 
not abandoned me. Why should I abandon Him?"' No, 
merciful God, I will not leave Thee, but serve Thee faithfully 
for all eternity! Farewell to thee, world, and to all thou 
hast ! I will return to my solitude, and as long as I live will 
never cease deploring the grievous sin I have committed against 
such a loving and merciful God. 
sinners! let those be our sentiments also; let us, too, weep conclusion 

Rnd sorrow 

hot tears for our sins, and make a resolution to avoid them in for sin. 


1 An dlvitlas honltatis ejus, et patlentias, et ionffanlmltatls contemnls ? Ignoras quoniara 
benlffnitas Dei axi poRnitentiam te adducit.— Rom. li. 4. 

* Bonus Domlnus etiam malum nunc adjuvat me, et non recessit a me. Cur ego recedam 


:"^" TTT*""? 


1 5 6 6*^^ P^^oieds the Smner on Account of Penzance. 

future. How often and how grievously have I not offended my 
God? How often have I not renounced llim, if not in words 
at least by my actions? And yet the good God has not aban- 
doned me. He has protected me while I was actually in the 
state of sin, and has never ceased to heap benefits on me. Why, 
then, should I leave Ilim? No, good God, never again shalf I 
do so! This very moment I will return to Him whom I have so 
often and so faithlessly forsaken. Hitherto I have often thought 
of heaven and its endless joys, but tliey did not seem precious 
enough to me to induce me to forego forbidden pleasures. I 
have ofteii heard in sermons of the eternal flames of hell; but 
they did not seem terrible enough to deter me from vice. Thy in- 
finite Majesty, God, has hitlierto failed to inspire me with rev- 
erence for Thee and with hon-or for sin; for I have not hesitated 
to sin before Thy very eyes. But I cannot resist the wonderful 
goodness and mercy with which Thou hast borne with me, un- 
grateful as I have been. I surrender to Thee, Lord! My 
heart is subdued! Behold, it is now full of sorrow. And what 
grieves me most, is that I have ever offended so good a God. 
This very day I will candidly confess all my sins, and will never 
cease to be sorry for them as long as I live. And I will love Thee 
more earnestly, and seek to fulfil Thy holy will in all thiuirs 
more exactly, the more I remember that I have treated Thee 
most unjustly, good God. Such is the resolution to which, 
with Thy grace, I will always remain faithful. Amen. 

The above sermon may be preached on the text: murmura- 
bant Pharism et ScribcB, dicentes; quia Mc peccatores recipit. 
Luke XV. 2. "And the Pharisees and Scribes murmured, say- 
ing: This man receiveth sinners," taken from the third Sunday 
after Pentecost. 

AnotJier Introduction to the same sermon for the fifth Sunday 

after Epiphany, 


Binite utraque crescere usque ad messem..—'K2Xi. xiii. 30. 
*SSuffer both to grow until the harvest." 

The servants were anxious to root up the weeds at once, and 
to throw them into the fire; but the good man of the house, 
who was the only one to suffer loss on account of the weeds, said 
that they should be let alone to grow with the good wheat until 
the harvest time, and then they might be pulled up. In this 

God Bears Patiently with and Receives Sinners. 1 5 7 

parable, my dear brethren, Christ represents the patience and 
long-suffering with which He endures sinners: for there is no 
doubt amongst the learned, that by the wheat are meant the just, 
and by the cockle, sinners. If creatures were allowed to work 
tlieir will, they would at once say, like the servants in to-daj-^s 
Gospel: " Wilt thou that we go and gather it up?" Give us 
permission, Lord, to destroy the wicked off the face of the 
earth. But what does the merciful God answer? Ko, He says; 
be not too zealous: '* Suffer both to grow until the harvest;" 
perhaps the wicked may still be converted and amend. This 
wonderful goodness of God, my dear brethren, etc., — continues 
as above. 





The wonderful goodness and mercy of God towards the sinner, 
1. while the latter is still in the state of sin, 2. when he wishes 
to leave the state of sin and to be converted. — Preached 07i the 
first Sunday after Pentecost. 


Estote ergo misericordes, sicut et Pater vester misericors est. 
Luke vi. 36. 

"Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. 



Mark these words, sinners, and all you who have ever 
grievously offended God, and learn what a good and merciful 
Lord we have. Jesus Christ is not satisfied with merely show- 
ing His mercy publicly towards sinners, going after them every- 
where and receiving them most lovingly into his friendship; but 
He also gives us as an example of mercy His heavenly Father, 
who makes His sun to shine on the good and the wicked, on 
the just and the unjust; and in fact, since the latter are more 
in need of pity and mercy. He shows special -goodness to them 
by bearing with them so patiently while they are in the state of 
sin, and when He could at any moment hurl them into hell, and. 

^^ iiiamm v ^....^^....g^^^afe^. 

^wiiBWayaTi pag 

158 God Bears Patiently with and Receives Sinners. 

by being ready to admit them into His love and friendship, if 
they do penance. This mercy, my dear brethren, which I have 
experienced hundreds of times, and therefore have so much 
cause to praise and bless unceasingly, will, I hope, to day be 
alone sufficient to win over your hearts and mine to God. AVhat 
could not be done by the consideration of the uncertainty of life, 
the severity of God's judgments, and the eternal pains of hell,' 
must and will eventually be effected by meditating on the merci- 
ful goodness of God; namely, sinners will be forced by a gentle 
violence to do sincere penance, and to avoid all sin in future. 
Teach us, therefore, Lord, the wonders of Thy goodness and 
mercy to sinners! I will make known the thoughts with which 
Thou hast inspired me concerning them. 

Plan of Discourse. 

The wonderful goodness and mercy of God toicards the sinner, 
while the latter is still in the state of sin; such icill he the first 
part. The wonderful goodness aiid mercy of God towards the 
sinner, when the latter wishes to leave the state of sin and to be 
converted; such will he the second part. 

Do Thou, God, give us this day the grace and mercy, in 
case we are still in sin, to be moved by Thy wonderful mercy to 
conversion; and, in case we are already converted, to love Thee 
for the future above all things with our whole hearts. This we 
beg of Thee by the merits of Mary, the Mother of mercy, and 
through the intercession of the holy guardian angels. 

Just as there is nothing sweeter or more agreeable to a healthy 
stomach than the food that is set before it, even if it consists 

one whohas ^^^^ ^^ ^ ^^^^^^ ^^ *^^^ ^rQii([', as there is nothing the thirsty man 
j^^gg j^j. g^ ^^,^j^ ^g ^ draught of cold water; as one who loves 

always bears about in his heart and desire the object of his love; 
so, says the philosopher Aristotle, and experience confirms his 
words, there is nothing more pleasing to a passionate man, who 
has been grievously offended, than to give vent to his anger, and 
be revenged on his enemy. This is made evident by the secret 
joy that such a man experiences if he sees or hears that some evil 
has befallen the person who offended him; by his bitter envy and 
jealousy, if the other prospers; by his rage and resentment, if he 
cannot have satisfaction on him. Hence the world is struck 
with astonishment when it hears or reads that some one has for- 
given his deadliest enemy, when he had him in his power and 
could have had full satisfaction from him. If one wishes to 

Nothlnjr Is 
than re- 
venjfe to 

suffered in- 

God Bears Patiently with and Receives Sinners. 159 » 

excite admiration for king David, he is represented, not as 
slaying the giant Goliath, armed with nothing but his shep- 
herd^s staff and yling; not as killing with his own hand, while 
still a boy, the bear and the lion; but as allowing his sworn 
enemy Saul, who had inflicted countless injuries on him, and 
who was still pursuing him to take his life, to depart unharmed 
out of the cave without doing him the least harm, although 
he was completely in his power, a mode of action that com- 
pelled even Saul to slied te^irs. And such conduct is strange 
and almost incomprehensible to us; so that it is rare to find 
men who, if they are grievously offended and have a chance 
of avenging themselves, yet manage to conquer their anger and 
to forgive their enemy. Hardly to any purpose do preachers ex- 
hort people to forgive injuries; hardly to any purpose do they 
cry out till they are hoarse the words of Our Lord, " But I say 
to you: Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you.''» 
Pardon those who have offended you, or else God will never 
pardon j^our sins; forgive, and that too from your hearts, or the 
fire of hell awaits you; you must necessarily choose one or the 
other. It is in vain, I say, to exhort people to practise the duty 
of forgiveness; for, generally speaking, they will remain as they 
were before. When anger and hatred have once taken possession 
of the heart, all the exhortations in the world will not prevent a 
man from being revenged when he can. So difficult it is for one 
of a passionate disposition to forgive his enemy, not to speak of 
loving and doing him good; so sweet and pleasant it is to be 

my Lord and my God, if Thou wert like men in this partic- ^^^ ^^ "*"* 
ular; if Thou, too, wert unwilling to restrain Thy hatred and suit?/by^* 
anger; if Thou wert determined to take revenge on Thy enemy t^e sinner, 
every time he offends Thee: oh, woe to me! where should I be 
now? Not here certainly; but long ago I shotlld have been with 
the demons in the flames of hell! How would it now be with 
many of yon, sinners? Let us think a little of the past and 
of the state in which we are at present. How have we acted 
towards God, and how has God acted towards us? What injury 
has He ever done us? Is there any one who can point to the least 
thing that God has done to harm him? Nay, is there anyone 
who can prove that God has not been constantly doing good to 
him every moment of his life? Therefore, in justice, there should 

' Ej?o autem dlco vobls: dilljirlte Inltnicos vestros: benefaclte his qui oderunt vos.— 
Matt. V. 44. 

And He Is 
very anx^j 
with the 

1 60 God Bears Patiently with and Receives Sifincrs. 

not be a moment of our lives during which we do not behave 
towards God with the greatest gratitude, reverence, fear, and 
love. But how have we acted towards Him in reality? Have we 
not dared, miserable creatures that we are, Avho are every mo- 
ment in need of our God, have we not dared to rebel iigainst 
Him without the least cause? How often have we not renounced 
His friendship, and declared war against Him; reviled and in- 
sulted Him to His face by our actions; despised, mocked, and 
laughed at Plim; trampled on what we knew to be the expression 
of His will, and turned our backs on Him, thus showing Him 
that we cared little about Him? That is really what we have 
done every time we committed a mortal sin. That is what is 
still done every day by most men, by all kinds of injustice, by 
wilful drunkenness, impurity, cursing and swearing, calumny 
and detraction, in thought, word, and deed. For sin is nothing 
else than a rebellion against God, a contemning, dishonoring^ 
insulting God; because man refuses to do what God wishes him 
to do, or does that which he knows to be displeasing to God. 
And what revenge has God, who is thus first insulted by us, what 
revenge has He taken, up to the present? -a have sinned,'' I 
might well say in the words of the Wise Ecclesiasticus, but with 
wonder at Thy patience, Lord, and with most humble thank- 
fulness for Thy goodness: *'I have sinned, and what harm hath 
befallen me? '' ' In spite of having so wantonly offended Thee, 
I have as yet felt no punishment. 

And is it because the great Lord does not feel the insults His 
weak and miserable creatures offer Him; Just as a brave man 
does not mind the barking of a little lap-dog? Ah, indeed. He 
does feel them! He speaks Himself in the Sacred Scripture of 
the great sorrow and anguish caused Him by sinners transgres. 
sing His commands, and of the disgust, hatred, and anger' He 
feels towards the sinner. '' To God the wicked and his vvicked- 
ness are hateful alike/' » He says in the Book of Wisdom. 
" Neither shall the wicked dwell near Thee; nor shall the unjust 
abide before Thy eyes. Thou hatebt all the workers of iniquity. " ' 
The same David speaks of the anger and disgust that God has 
of sin: " Shall Thy anger burn like fire? " * And St. Paul also, 
when he says, '' But according to thy hardness and imnenitent 

> Peccavl, et quid mlhl accldlt trIste?-Ecclus, v. 4. 
» Similiter autem odio sunt Deo Impius et Impletas ejus.— WIsd. xlv. 9, 
' Neque babltabit juxta te mallpnua, neque pennanebunt injustl ante oculos tuos 
omnes qui operantnr Iniqnltatem.— Ps. v. 6, 7. 
* Exardescet sioui Ignis Ira tua?-lbld. Ixxxvill. 47. 


God Bears Patiently with and Receives Sinners, 1 6 1 

heart, thou treasurest up to thyself wrath against the day of 
wrath." ' To show the sorrow and gi'ief He feels at sin, God 
Himself uses an expression which, strictly speaking, could be 
employed by man only: '' And God, seeing that the wickedness of 
men was great on earth. . . touched inwardly with sorrow of heart, 
He said: I will destroy man, whom I have created, from the face 
of the earth. . . for it repenteth me that I have made them,''* ' 
since they now despise and offend Me. See what terrible ven- 
geance God took on His own, innocent. Incarnate Son, when He 
allowed Him, after suffering unheard-of torments, to be nailed 
to an infamous gibbet, and that, too, for the sins of others, which 
He had undertaken to satisfy for. "For the wickedness of Mv 
people have I struck Him/' ' says His heavenly Father. Hear 
Avhat the reprobate in hell have to say about it, who, although 
they were redeemed by the precious Blood of Christ, v/ill have to 
suffer endless torments in that lake of fire, while the just, and 
good, and merciful God will look on, and will hoar their howls of 
despair, without being in the least moved to mercy or pity; nay, 
He will laugh at their sufferings and take a special pleasure in 
them. '' I will laugh in your destruction/'* He says. Therefore 
God must feel most grievously hurt by sin, and His anger against 
sinners must be very bitter. Because, the more He must love 
Himself above all things, as the Supreme Good, the more also 
He must hate and abominate sin, which is opposed to Him, as 
the worst of all evils; so that no man can cause another such 
grief and vexation, or offer Him such an injury, as the sinner 
causes and offers to God by violating His commands deliberately; 
nor can any man have such hatred or anger against his bitterest 
enemy, as God has against the sinner. A soul in the state of 
mortal sin is in the sight of God such an abominable object, that 
a dead and putrid dog (such is the simile used by St. Augustine) 
causes less disgust to the most delicate nostrils, than such a soul 
causes to its God. * 

But, my Lord and my God, what am I to conclude from this? ^^^^^an 
Why dost Thou not pour out the vials of Thy wrath? Why at"onl,T 
dost Thou not let sinners feel Thy anger? Hast Thou perhaps Hepieal^s. 

^ Secundum autem duritiam tuam et irapeaitens cor thesaurlzas tibi iram in die irae.— 
Rom. ii. 5. 

"^ Videns autem D'^'is quod multa malitia boralnum esset in terra. . . tactus dolore cordis 
Intrlnsecus, delebo, ino.uit, homlucm, quern creavi, a fucle lerrae . . . poenltet enim me 
fecisse eos.— Gen. vl. 5. 6, 7. 

3 Propter scelus populi met percuss! eum — Is. 1111. 8. 

* Ego In Interltu vestro ridebo.- Prov. 1. 23, 

" Tarn tolerabilius canis putridus foetet homlnlbus, quam anlma peccatrix Deo. 


Yet He re- 
frains from 
and pa- 
awaits the 

As He did 
when He 
wished to 

162 God Bears Patiently with and Receives Sinjicrs. 

not opportunities, or metins, or strengtli onougli to revenire 
Thyself on Thy enemy? Is not man at all time.C and in every 
place, even when he is actually committing sin and treating Thee 
so unjustly, completely in Thy power, so that Thou canst do 
with him as Thou pleasest? Dost Thou not hold" him in Thy 
hands? Only give a sign to the clouds, and they will send doAvn 
their lightnings on the head of the presumptuous wretch who 
dares to offend Thee; give a sign to the earth, and it will open 
and swallow him up; let the demons loose for a moment, and 
they will hurry him oif to hell; withdraw from him for a sinde 
instant Thy own protecting hand, and he will at once fall hadv 
into his original nothingness. If Thou art so enraged against 
sinners, vrhy dost Thou do none of those things? 

Ah, there is where we see the wonderful love, patience, meek- 
ness, goodness, and mercy with which God treats the sinner, in- 
asmuch as he overcomes, so to speak, such an intense dislike, 
restrains such hatred and anger, and, although He has nothing 
good to liope from the sinner, and no harm to fear from him'^ 
yet he does not take the least revenge, when it is so easy for Him 
to take it; but with the greatest patience bears with his wanton 
offences and transgressions, and allows Himself to be insulted and 
annoyed, year after year, by daily sins, without doing the least 
thing to harm him, preserving him in life all the time. St. 
John Chrysostom makes some beautiful reflections on this mercv 
of God. See. he says, when a man wishes to build a house, what 
a long time it takes him to finish it from the foundation. IIow 
many tradesmen, laborers, masons, and carpenters have to work 
at it. Whole years may pass before it is in a fit state to be dwelt 
in. But if a house is to be thrown down, only a few days are re- 
quired; a spark of fire is enough to destroy a palace, or to reduce 
this cathedral to ashes, unless measures are successfully taken to 
prevent the flames from spreading. It is quite the opposite with 
the works of God; the Almighty Lord builds up very quickly, 
but He is very slow in tearing down. In the beginning lie 
formed the intention of creating this mighty workf; hovr long 
did it take Him? He simply said, ''fid," let it be done, and it 
was finished. The earth was there, millions of stars shone in 
the firmament, the immense ocean was filled with fishes, the air 
with birds, the land with animals. 

But when the same God was forced to destroy the wicked 
world by the universal Deluge, on account of its sins, it took Him 
a hundred and twenty years to complete His vengeance. For 

*-.„; vT^-^- ^. ~'vfr'^ftS^ \i^j i i ^>:^f ^^^^^^K»^ l l^ 

God Bears Patiently with and Receives Sinners. 1 6^ 

the whole of that time beforehand He gave notice to men o'f the destroy the 
calamity that was impending over them; He sent to them the ^q^? 
Patriarch Noe to exhort them to amend their sinful lives, and 
to tell them that, if they continued in their sins, punishment was 
to be inflicted on them by an angry God; but if they abstained 
from sin, that they might appease His anger. When Noe saw 
that his exhortations were fruitless, he began to build the ark; 
and what a long time it took him by divine command to finish 
it? He spent fully a hundred years at it, although he might 
have finished it much quicker, if he had employed more work- 
men to help him. Why was this? In order that men, seeing 
that the threat was meant in earnest, might have time to amend, 
and to do penance for their sins. '' They waited for the patience 
of God," says St. P6ter, '' in the days of Noe, when the ark;) 
w^'ls a-building." ' 'And God waited patiently; it seemed hard 
to Him to destroy men, although they were His greatest enemies; 
just as a loving mother is unwilling to punish her dear child. 
At last the day appointed for the fulfilment of the threat arrived, 
and the clouds poured down torrents of water; but in what man- 
ner? They certainly could have overwhelmed the world at once; 
but even while inflicting punishment, the good God could not 
forget His mercy. The rain fell steadily for forty days, and the 
waters rose gradually until they entered the houses and finally 
onttopped the mountains. Why was that? asks St. John Chrys- 
ostom. Because the patience of God was waiting that men 
might have time, while climbing higher and higher to get out 
of the reach of the waters, to repent of their sins, and at all ) 
events to save their souls from the eternal flames of hell, as 
doubtless many succeeded in doing. 

It is just the same to-day with me and you, sinners! The ^"dasHe 
good God is very quick in pardoning, and forgiving, and admit- mannowa- 
ting us to His friendshij); but He is very slow in inflicting- on us ^^^^ *^- 
the punishment we so well deserve, no matter what provocation 
we give Him. He waits from one day to another, from one 
month to another, from one year to another, nay, sometimes till 
old age creeps on ns; and during the whole time He gives way 
to us as if we had done nothing whatever to displease Him. 
He exhorts, threatens, promises, runs after us, and calls out to 
us to return to Him. " What if God," says 'St. Paul, and we 
know by experience the truth of his words, "willing to show 
His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much 

* Expectabant Dei patientiam in diebus Noe, cum fabricaretur area.— I. Pet. iii. 20. ' 

fa^i i^iTi'irA-iafJ'li* ini-a 

liifrMfiffi iiS Mr lyiTi "•!- -"tf -fii^ i" ■ f 


1 64 God Bears Patiently with and Receives Sinners. 

patience vessels of wratli, fitted for destruction." ' As if he had 
forgotten His omnipotence when He wished to be revenged on 
His enemies; as if He did not see our sins, and knew nothing 
about them. '' Thou hast mercy on all," says the Wise Man of 
Him, '^ because Thou canst do all things, and\vinkest at the sins 
of men for the sake of repentance."' Thou actest, Lord, as if 
sin did not affect Thee, because, as Thou Thyself affirmest with 
an oath. Thou desirest not the death of the sinner, and this 
Thou sayest by Thy Prophet Ezechiel in order to give the sinner 
courage to do penance. ''Say to them: As I live, saith the 
Lord God, I desire not the death of the wicked, but that the 
wicked turn from his way and live;"'' as if his damnation 
would cause Thee some great loss; and Thou callest after him: 
" Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; and why will you die? " * 
smoption of ^^! ' ^'^'^^ ^ Consider on the one hand the great presumption of 
Die .sinner ^^^ Sinner ill daring to rebel against God, and on the other hand 
"t^L of ^^'^ ^^^^^.^ie^*^"l patience and mercy with which Gods acts towards 
(jodtohitn ^"°^' I imagine I see a little child in the arms of its mother, 
shown by a The child has not yet come to the use of reason, but, small as it 
is, it has its fits of bad temper, and sometimes, when things are 
not to its liking, it can be very obstinate indeed; it kicks and 
struggles, and tries its best to get free from its mother's arms; it 
even gnashes its teeth against her, and actually raises its hand to 
strike her, so angry is it in its weakness, at not getting what it 
wishes. And what does the mother do? Does she beat it? 
Sometimes, indeed, that would be a very good thing to do; but 
it is not generally done. Ah no! she presses the child to her 
heart all the closer, talks to it in a loving manner, and sings for 
it and soothes it, until it is quite satisfied. That is the'' only 
punishment she inflicts on her obstinate child. There you have 
a striking example of the presumption of the sinner, and at the 
same time of the goodness and mercy of God towards him. 
Man, when arrived at the age of reason, knows well that he is 
held in the arms, in tlie very lap of God, whose presence he can 
never avoid, and yet he dares to vent his anger against God, to 
revile Him, to despise Him, and, as it were, to raise his hand to 
strike Him in the face (for all the buffets that Christ, the Son of 

J Quodsl Deus volens o?tendere lrain,et notam facere potentiam suam, sustlnuit in multa 
patientia vasa irae, apta in Interifu.Ti.— Rom. ix. se. 

ttenf^^Ii' xT &r' '*"^* '"""''' ^°^'' ^* dlsslmulas peccata homlnum propter pceniten- 

J Die ad eos: vlvoejfo, dicit Don.Inus Deus: nolo mortem Impll, sed ut convertatur im- 
plus a via sua et vivat.-Ezech. xxxlli. 11. ^uuvenaiur im 

* Convertlmini, convertimlni a viis vestris pessimis; et quare morleminl ?-lbid. 

God Bears Patiently with and Receives Sinners. 165 

God, received from the Jews and the soldiers did not cause Him 
half so much pain and anguish as a single mortal sin, wdiich 
offends Himself and His heavenly Father); and this undutiful 
conduct he persists in often for years and years. Meanwhile, 
how does God act towards him? Xot otherwise than the 

. loving mother or nurse acts towards the child; as He says Him- 
self by the Prophet Osee: '' And I was like a foster-father to 

. Ephraim, I carried them in my arms: and they knew not that 

1 healed them." ' He holds him all the closer in His arms, that 
he may not die in the state of sin and fall into the jaws of the 
hellish wolf; He continues to bestow His benefits on him as 
before; He gives him the light of the sun; He warms him with 
fire, covers him with clothing, and gives him food and drink 
every day; for all these things must come from the hands of 
God. " Who," asks St. Lawrence Justinian in astonishment, ' 
'' who can count the benefits that God bestows every day on un- 
grateful sinners? " "" See how He commands all His creatures to 
serve and preserve them; see how He allures them by kindness; " ' 
how He heaps benefits on them;"* how He calls to them by His 
promises and exhortations; " ' how, with the greatest patience and 
overlooking. their sins, He tries to bring them back to the right 
way; " ' and how with the most loving caresses He tries to draw 

. them to Himself." ' 

Oh, wonderful certainly is God in His goodness and mercv to TWswon- 
the miserable and wretched creature who has offended and T.lTl7^' 
angered Him. Reflect on this, sinner! If the little child, in mercy 
the midst of its impotent struggles against its mother, were ^^^"^"^ '"°'^* 
suddenly to come to the use of reason, what would be its to do ^a!^ 
sentiments when the fit of passion passes away? AVould it not *^"c^*' 
be filled with dismay and terror at its own insolence and pre- *^°**' 
sumption in having dared to raise its hand against her in Avhose 
arms it was carried, and who need only have taken away the 
support of her arms, when it would have at once fallen on the 
ground and, perhaps, broken its neck? Would it not be as- 
tonished at the meekness and goodness of its mother, in thus 
allowing it to beat her and struggle against her, without ceasing 
to show it the greatest love and tenderness? With what sorrow 
would it not beg pardon, and how sincere would not its love be 

» Ego quasi nntriclus Ephraim, portabam eos in brachiis meis: etnescierunt quodcura- 
rem eos.— Osee xl. 3. 

2 Quis verbis e <plicet quanta quotidle inprratis peccatoribus Deus beneflcia conferat? 
' nios blanditiis alllcit. •» Muneribus onerat. » Exhortationibus vocat. 

« Revocat indulgentla. " Charltate trahlt. 

It takes a 
great deal 
of care and 
trouble to 
obtain for- 
giveness of 
one whom 
we have of- 

1 66 God Bears Patiently with and Receives Siniiers, 

in future for so good a mother? Ah sinner! why do yon not do 
so now? Why are you not moved by the patience with wliieh 
the good and merciful God has waited for you so long? You 
should consider the matter deeply, and often say to yourselves: 
God could many a time have hurled me into hell; and He has 
not done so, but, on the contrary, has conferred on me countless 
benefits. Let that thought cause you to shed tears of sorrow 
and repentance, and say. like King Saul, when David spared 
his life in the cave: ''Thou art more just than!."' I, Q 
Lord, have insulted Thee, and Thou hast done good to me.' I 
have fought against Thee to the utmost of my power, and trie] 
almost to compel Thee to chastise me; and" Thou hast spared 
me, and, like a mother, carried me in Thy arms. For that vei-y 
reason I now detest my past insolence and presumption, and 
am resolved to return to Thee by sincere repentance. Couraae 
then; delay no longer! You cannot do anything more pleasing 
to your hea\;enly Father than to fly at once to the lap of Hil 
mercy; and nothing will give Him greater pleasure than to 
receive and forgive you from His heart. How will He forgive 
you? Here again we have to admire the goodness and mercy of 
God to the sinner who does penance; as we shall briefly consider 
in the 

Second Part. 
H he who has offended another wishes to be re-admitted to 
his favor and friendship, what must he do, especially when tlie 
offended person is a mighty lord? Must he at once run to his 
house, acknowledge his guilt, and beg pardon? Certainly not; 
that would be a foolish thing to do; it would be onlythi^v/iug 
oil on the flames. How could he expect the offended lord to 
give him a good reception, if he rushes into the house uninvited, 
although his only intention is to ask forgiveness? His conduct 
would be considered a. fresh insult, that would inflame the 
other's anger anew, and perhaps make him receive \X^^. intruder 
at the point of the sword. The first question would be, who 
has asked you to come here? How can you dare to appear in mv 
sight? Or, at all events, he need not expect a kind receptioiu 
and must not be surprised if the person he has offended turns 
his back on him, tells him in cold and scornful words to come 
another time, and at last consents to speak of forgiveness only 
when ample satisfaction has been offered for the insult. IS^o; a 

* Jusdor tu es quam ego.— I. Kings xxlv. 18. 

God Bears Patiently with and Receives Sinners. 167 

matter of the kind must be dealt with much more carefully. 
The offender must employ the good offices of a third person to 
act as his advocate, and say a good word for him. And the 
advocate, too, has to be on his guard; it will not do for him to 
blurt out the matter at once; he must wait for a favorable' 
opportunity, when the other is in good humor, and not even 
dare to say a word of the insult suffered until he has with great 
caution asked and obtained permission. Then he might say 
that the poor man (for he dare not as 3'et mention his name, 
unless he is expressly asked to do so) is in such trouble 
on account of having incurred displeasure, that he is very 
sorry for his conduct, and is ready to do anything at all by way 
of satisfaction; and would there be any objection to his sending 
an apology? and so on. So much trouble is required, so many 
plans have to be considered, and so much time spent, before one 
succeeds in being reconciled to the person whom he has offended. 
And if the means used are successful, and the reconciliation 
effected, there still remain often a secret dislike and mistrust 
in the heart of the offended person, and the insult suffered is 
never forgotten, so that there is no chance of true friendship 
ever existing between the parties again. 

i\h! how different the Almighty and Sovereign Lord is to us The sinner 
in this respect. If I have made God my enemy: if I have fallen ^^edsoniy 

• i T -j-i TT- • j> -r ^ ' 1 rt. T T TT. a moment 

into disgrace with Him; 11 1 have grievously offended Him a of repent- 
hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand times; if I have ^°^^' ^^'^ 
wantonly insulted Him for ten, twenty, thirty, or forty years; gives wm 
how much time will it take to appease His anger, and be recon- at once, 
ciled to Him? It would be but right and just that, as I have 
allowed Him to knock, sigh, and call out so often at the door of 
my heart, witliout deigning to give Him a hearing, and have 
turned Ilim away like a troublesome beggar; it would be only 
right that He, mindful of the way in which I have treated Him, 
should in turn allow me to knock and sigh without giving me 
an answer. But no; a single moment is all the time I require 
to be reconciled to Him; whatever moment suits me, if I am 
only in earnest, I will be always sure to find Him in a good 
humor, and ready, nay, anxious to forgive me and to offer me His 
grace and friendship. He Himself has promised by His Prophet 
Ezechiel, that, at whatever time the sinner is converted, he will 
live, and his former iniquities will no longer be remembered. 
And how am I to present myself before Him? Oh, there is no 
need of a third person's interference now to dispose His heart to 


And re- 
ceives him 
with the 

As appears 
from the 
Gospel par- 

1 68 God Bears Patiently with and Receives Sinners, 

listen to me; I need not seek for some one to present Him with 
an apology in my name! If I only wish, I myself can go direct- 
ly to Him, although He is embittered against me; I can present 
myself before Him, and ask His i)ardon. What must I do to re- 
ceive it? I have only to acknowledge my sins with true sorrow in 
confession; and if I have no opportunity of confession, a single 
penitent sigh, one heartfelt word of sorrow, ''I have sinned, 
O Lord, and I am sorrow for it; I will never sin again; " that is 
quite enough to reconcile us thoroughly, and to blot out a thou- 
sand million sins, if I had committed them. I am again a 
friend of God, His beloved child, and a lawful heir of the king- 
dom of heaven. I am again admitted to grace, without bail or 
surety for my future conduct, although I have broken my word 
already a Imndred times, and have abandoned Him after He has 
forgiven me. I am received by Him without any fear on my 
part that He will keep up against me the remembrance of my 
former wickedness, or that He will be less friendly to me on 
account of it, nay, with the assurance that He will not remember 
my sins any more. 

God receives me into His friendship, and that, too, with so 
much love and joy, that it seems as if He looked on it as a great 
happiness to be able to forgive me, and a greater one than I consid- 
er it to receive His forgiveness; so that it would be almost a new 
sin for me not to repent of my sins at once, in order to procure 
Him that happiness. Time does not allow me, my dear breth- 
ren, to illustrate this truth by some of the many examples of 
wdiich the Holy Scripture is full. With what loving kindness 
did He not act towards the sinners Zuchseus and MattheAV, 
towards the woman taken in cdultery, the Samaritmi woman, 
the notorious sinner Magdalene, the penitent thief, Peter, who 
denied Him thrice, and Thomas, who had lost faith in Him? 
To none of these did He make the least reproach on account of 
the grievous sins they had committed; He never upbraided them 
with their vices; He treated them with the greatest friendship, 
ate and drank with them publicly, and defended them against 
detractors, as if He Himself were attacked in their persons, so 
that He got the name of being a protector, receiver, friend, and 
harborer of sinners. 

If you wish to see what joy it gives the Almighty God to 
admit the repentant sinner to His friendship, read and meditate 
on the parable of the Good Shepherd, who leaves His whole flock 
to go in search of the one sheep that has gone astray. How He 

God Bea7's Patiently with a?id Receives Sinnei^s. 169 

seeks it over mountain and valley, and, when He has found it, 
brings it back on His shoulders rejoicing, and prepares a feast 
for His neighbors, that they may rejoice with Him. '' Rejoice 
with Me," He says to them, " because I have found My sheep 
that was lost."' Read the parable of the Prodigal Son, to 
whose father God compares Himself: this undutiful son, after 
having squandered his whole patrimony in gluttony, drunken- 
ness, and riotous living, and disgraced his father, came back 
half naked and starving, in the hope that his father would hire 
him as a servant. The father saw him coming afar off, and was 
not satisfied with merely admitting him into his house, which 
certainly would have been more honor than he deserved, but ran 
out to meet him, as if he were a great lord, and before asking 
what he wanted, fell on his neck and kissed him with tears of 
jo}^, sent all the servants hurrying about to get him new clothes, 
a ring for his finger, and shoes for his feet, and had a grand ban- 
quet prepared to testify to the joy he felt at having his son back 
again. ^^Let us eat and make merry," he said, '^ because this 
my son was dead, and is come to life again; was lost and is 
found." ' The other son, who had always remained faithful to his 
father, never had any such rejoicings made over him; a fact of 
which he complained bitterly. '' So I say to you," says Christ, 
nhere shall be joy before the angels of God upon one sinner do- 
hig penance." ' St. Thomas makes a wonderful remark on this 
in admirable words: '' God calls the angels together to rejoice, 
not with men, but with Himself, when a sinner does penance; 
as if man were the god of his God; as if the whole happiness of 
God consisted in finding the man whom He had lost, and as if 
God could not be happy without man."* 

sinner! how long will you refuse to give this great consola- 
tion and joy to the God who loves you so much? Have you not 
abused His patience long enough? Can you be so cruel as to 
offend Him still more,' and to treat Him so shamefully? He is 
no Christian, but a heathen, a barbarian without religion (I am 
not saying half enough); he is an unreasoning wild beast, a 
monster; help me, my dear brethren, with your thoughts, to say 

^ ConfrratulaminI mlhi, quia inveni ovem raeam, quae perlerat.— Luke xv. 6. 
2 Manducemus et epulemur: quia hie Alius meus mortuus erat, et re\ixi'f neripratPf 
Inventus est.-Ibid. 23, 24. ' *^ 

2 Ita dicovobls, ffaudlum erit coram angelis Del super uuo peccatore pcenitentiam agente. 

* Omnes anf?elos convocat ad congratu land urn, non horaial, sed slbi ; quasi homo Dei 
deus esset, et tota salus dlvlna in ipsius inventioae penderet, et quasi sine ipso beatus esse 
noa po3set.-St. Thom opusc. Ixill., c. 7. 

and repent- 
ance for 
havinjf of- 
feiided such 
a mercilul 

' -■■fr^ iaeateiata 



1 70 6"^^ Bears Patiently with and Receives Simmers, 

what he must be, who is not touched by the wonderful patience 
and goodness of God; who is not moved by it to repent of bis 
sins at once, and who, instead of loving such a good Lord with 
all his heart, actually offends Him anew! my God, after ul], 
what a severe revenge Thou takest on me; for Thou makest me 
asliamed of myself, and intolerable in my own eyes, when Thou 
remindest me of Thy loving mercy, when I think of .the patience 
with which Thou hast" borne with me so long while I was in the 
state of sin, when I recall to mind how I was wearied on the 
way of evil, and yet I could not exhaust Thy patience; how, after 
my many inGdelities, Thou didst not take any revenge on me; 
how Thou didst confer innumerable benefits on me, Thy enemy; 
how Thou hast so often received me again and with joy into 
Thy friendsliip, never reproaching me with my former sins, and 
how Thou art willing henceforth to place me in the number of 
Thy beloved children. This mercy, I repeat, puts me to greater 
confusion than any revenge Thou couldst take on me, bitter 
death, strict judgment, fire and torments of hell, uncertain and 
long eternity, and anything else that can terrifv me. I do not 
want you to impel me to do penance, and to abstain from sin in 
future! There is nothing more intolerable to me than to think 
that I have erer offended and despised so good a God; nothing 
more terrible than the thought of again offending Him. Take, 
Lord, Thy heaven and all its promised joys away, and every- 
thing that could entice me to serve Thee; this incomprehensible 
mercy of Thine, which I have so often experienced, is quite 
powerful enough of itself to captivate my heart, even against 
my wicked and obstinate nature, and to draw it altogether to 
Thy love I God of patience, how could I treat Thee so un- 
justly and offend Thee! I am sorry a thousand times for all 
my sins. " Be merciful," I say with St. Bernard, " to the mis- 
erable penitent, whom Thou- hast spared so long when he was 
a sinner."' From this moment I am firmly resolved (mark, 
holy guardian angel, what I am about to say, and write doVvn 
the date and place in which I make this resolution!), not half- 
and-half, as hitherto, but with all the power of my heart, never 
more, God, to offend Thee even by venial sin, wilfully and 
deliberately; but to love Thee constantly above all things, until, 
as I firmly hope from Thy great mercy, I shall one day in heaven 
be a living and ever grateful witness to Thy wonderful love and 
mercy to sinners. Amen. 
» Da misericordlam misero et poenitenti, cul tamdlu peperclstl peccatori. 

The Trials with which God Visits the Simmer, 171 


God visits the sinner with trials, that he may repent and 
amend; and woe to the sinner who has no trials to suffer!— 
P readied on the feast of the Dedication of a church. 


Venit enim Filius hominis qiicerere et salvum facere quod 
perierat. — Luke xix. 10. 

" For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which 
was lost." 

Such was the end that Jesus Christ Our Saviour had in view, 
when he came into this world: " to seek and to save that which 
was lost." This was His only occupation as long as He lived on 
earth; to this were directed all His toil and labor. His watching 
and prayer. His hunger and thirst. His wanderings hither 
and thither. His eating and drinking with sinners, His preaching 
and miracles. His sufferings and death; everything He did w^as 
to bring eternal happiness to men, whom sin was bringing to 
eternal ruin. God has still the same will and intention with 
regard to us; as far as lies with Him, He desires the salvation of 
all men. To carry out His wishes He makes use of different 
means, according to the dispositions and characters of men; 
some who Jiear his voice. He tries to allure to Himself by kind- 
ness and friendliness, as He formerly did with Zachseus; others 
He calls by different crosses and trials, thus using a sort of 
violence with them, so as to make this life uncomfortable to 
them; and that is the experience of most sinners in the world. 
This last means is certainly very bitter to our sensuality, and we 
often think that God is ungracious and unmerciful to us, when 
He visits us with trials; yet the intention that God has in sO 
doing is none other than to bring our souls thereby to eternal 
happiness. God visits with trials sinners whO'are still in the 
state of sin; He visits with trials the just who have done pen- 
ance for their sins; He visits with trials the innocent who have ^ 
uever sinned; He visits with trials even those saintly souls that 

- ,U^teJli>.»H.^>^i^iteg,^<>>fe.^ 


ment is 
fora stub- 


born horse, 
or a dis- 

172 The Trials with which God Visits the Sijtncr. 

lead holy lives. The first, thiit they may be converted to Him, 
and amend their lives; tlie second, that they may suffer in this 
life the punishment they have so richly deserved for their sins; 
the third, that they may be all the better preserved from the 
danger of sin, and may gain heaven; the fourth, that their vir- 
tue and holiness may be proved and increased. From this it 
follows that, when we have trials to suffer, we should take them 
with humility from the hand of God, who always means so well 
with us, and fully resign our wills to His, so that the suffering, 
which we cannot avoid, may not be without fruit for us. To- 
day I take the first class of men, who have most trials to suffer, 
and I say, 

Plan of Discourse. 
God visits loitli trials sinners who are in the state of sin, that 
they may repent and amend; and itx)e to the sinner tvho, since he 
does not ameyid, suffers no trials! Such is the subject of the 
present sermon. 

God of goodness, one favor I have to beg of Thee, through 
the merits of Thy dearest Mother Mary and the intercession of 
our holy guardian angels, for those sinners who have much to 
suffer; not, indeed, that Thou mayest free them from their suffer- 
ings, for that I leave to Thy fatherly providence, and, indeed, I 
would rather ask Thee, if they cannot be brought to repentance 
any other way, to increase their crosses; but that Thou mayest 
open their eyes to see how Avell Thou meanest with them by vis- 
iting them in this life with trials and adversity, so that this 
knowledge may make them return to Thee at once. But for 
all others who suffer, we beg of Thee the grace that, they may 
bear all their crosses with patience for Thy sake. 

There is in a stable a stubborn horse, which will bear neither 
bit, bridle, nor saddle, and kicks out viciously whenever the 
groom comes near him; what does the owner do in order to tame 
him, and make him useful? Does he give him more food, and 
keep his manger always full, so as to subdue him by kindness? 
No, indeed not; that would only make him worse. He tries 
harsh measures with him; puts a severe bit on him, and ties him 
so that he cannot kick; he leaves him for a time without food, 
and then gives him only a little chaff and straw to eat; in that 
way the horse will soon learn to know his master, and to obey 
him. But is it not wrong to treat a poor, dumb animal so cruel- 
ly? By no means; the horse is of no use; he has to be made 

The Trials with which God Visits the Sinner, i j^ 

useful, and therefore that severe treatment is good for him. 
You hear a child crying; there is a man behind him with a stick, 
who is giving him a good beating; what do you think, my dear 
brethren? Is he not a cruel fellow? Why should he beat a 
harmless child? But a wise man would think at once, that man 
is the child's father; he means well with him, and wishes to make 
him a good boy; doubtless, the child has committed some fault, 
and therefore it is good and necessary for him to be punished, 
if there is no other means of teaching him to do what is right. 

The author of the life of Andronicus Pala^ologus, the second And also for 
emperor of that name at Constantinople, tells us that that em- ^opie!^** 
peror was once attacked by a grievous lethargy, which kept him shown by 
in bed for a whole year, nor could any medicine be found ta^"^^"^^®* 
help him, until a person of great experience advised the em- 
press to annoy and tease the sick man in every possible way, so 
tliat he should frequently be moved to anger; if that plan failed, 
there was no hope of his recovery. The empress, who dearly 
loved her husband, followed the advice punctually; and to tor- 
ment him all the more, she went lierself to his bedside, and 
commenced to shake him about from one side to the other, leav- 
ing him no chance of repose, either by day or night. The 
emperor begged to be let alone, but she was deaf to his cries;- 
and if he asked for anything, she gave him quite the contrary. 
At last he could stand it no longer, and called out in a rage for 
his servants and soldiers. Am I not master in my own palace? 
he said; must I allow m3^self to be tortured to death, and that, 
too, by my own wife? But the empress stood by and only 
laughed at him; while the servants and lackeys had to do the same. 
The emperor was nearly mad with fury. But by the vio- 
lence of his passion the vital spirits were stirred in him ao-ain, 
his blood was warmed, and the foul humors which had caused 
the illness were soon absorbed, so that he was fully restored to 
health, and lived for twenty years longer. Now suppose that 
during his sickness he had sufficient strength left, would he not 
have seized the empress in his anger, and strangled her with 
his own hands? Not a doubt of it. But when the matter was 
explained to him afterwards, and he found out how well the 
empress meant with him, he thanked her a thousand times for 
the love she showed him, and his love for her was immeasurably 
increased. It was a good thing for the emperor under the cir- 
cumstances to be annoyed in that way, as otherwise he would. 
have succumbed to his illness. 


^r^* ■rrn-v ^/^.7 . 


1 74 ^/^^ 7^^/^/y wM which God Visits the Sinner, 

r^ckTb? . ^'^' ^"^'^^ brethren, what is the sinner who is in the 'state of 
Is an unruly ^in. Such IS the question that St. Augustine asks. He is a 
horse, a sick man, he answers, who is sunk deep in vige; he finds rest 
and repose in sin, as long as he enjoys the false pleasure it gives 
and so he lies there y\\ imminent danger of eternal death, unless 
certain means are used to save him. This is comformahle to what 
St. Paul says, who, when exhorting sinners to repent, speaks 
of their arising from sleep: -It is now the hour for us to rise 
from sleep.- • What is the sinner? He is a disobedient, ill- 
beliaved child, who, like the Prodigal in the Gospel, has rwn 
away from his Father into a distant land, even to the gates of 
hell, and has squandered away all the goods and treasures of his 
•soul, all the merits of his former good works, all the grace and 
friendship of God, and all his right to the kingdom of heaven 
^V hat IS the sinner? He is an obstinate horse that has shaken 
off his bridle, and refuses to bear the sweet voke of his master 
A madness against which the Prophet DaVid has lono- since 
warned us, in these words: - Do not become like the horse and 
the mule, that have no understanding."' 

Now, what shall the good God do with one wlio thus remains 
m the state of sin, if He still loves him, and desires his conver- 
sion? Hear His own words, in which He takes counsel with His 
Prophet Osee: -What shall I do to thee, Ephraim? What 
shall I do to thee, Juda? - ' What means shall I use to make 
this sinner repent? What an extraordinary thing that is! Does 
the Almighty God then actually ask advice as to how He is to 
help sinners? Yes, as St. Jerome says, speaking of this text, 
He acts as if He knew not what to do; -as if the Lord wished 
to say: I know not what medicine to apply to your wounds * 
What shall I do? Shall I allow the sick man to go on in his 
sleep? Ah! if I do that, he will awake only in the fire of hell 
What shall I do? Shall I allow the unruly horse to run about 
the meadow and eat his fill of the rich grass? H I do that lie 
will grow worse and worse, until I shall not be able to get any 
good of him. What shall I do? Shall I allow the prodigal son 
to go on in his evil ways and send him the means of continuing 
his excesses? Ah! if I do that, he will never think of returning 
to his father's house. 

What shall I do with the sinner? I will speak to him in a 

» Hora est Jam nos de somno surgtre.— Rom. xlli. 11. 

«NoUte fieri sicuteqausetmulus,qulbiwnon est lntellectus.-Ps xxil 9 

Quid faclam tibi Ephraim? quid faciam llbi Juda?— Os=!e rJ 4 
* Quasi dlcat : non invenlo quam plagls vestris posslm adhlbere medldnam 

God wishes 
to core him. 

.means have 

The Trials with which God Visits the Sinner. 175 

friendly manner by My inspirations: - Therefore, behold, I will hitherto not 
allure her, and will lead her into the wilderness; and I will ^®^^*^* 
speak tO her heart. " ' Yes, Lord, do so; for thus St. Peter 
was converted after having thrice denied Thee, and having 
per^^t)yered obstinately in forgetting Thee; one look of Thine 
Wiis enough to soften his heart: - And Peter, going out, wept 
biUerly. "' But what good will that do? Have I not often 
tried it before with that sinner? How often have I not exhorted 
him to repentance by Myself, by My angels, by his confessor, 
and by My servants, whom I sent to preach to him? How often 
have I not represented to him the uncertainty of the hour of 
death, the strictness of the judgment, the joys of heaven, and 
the eternal torments of hell^ in order to warn him to amend his 
life? And in spite of all that, he is just as he was before; nay, 
he will not come to those sermons in which he fears that his 
conscience will be touched. What shall 1 do? I will send him 
still more health and temporal prosperit)% and I will bless all his 
undertakings, and so I will conquer him by mildness: -I will 
draw them with the cords of Adam, with the bonds of love: and 
I will be to them as one that taketh off the yoke on their jaws: 
and I put his meat to him that he might eat."' Right, Lord; 
for in that way Thou has brought to Thyself so many frail and 
sickly people whom Thou hast miraculously cured ; and Thou 
hast won over many thousand souls, when Thou didst feed them 
in the desert. But, after all, that plan is even less likely to suc- 
ceed than the former; for the more generous I have been to him 
hitherto, the more ungrateful and obstinate did he become; nay, 
he even abused My benefits to offend Me more daringly. W^ha^ 
shall I do? I will fill his conscience with fear and anxiety, as I 
have often threatened to do to sinners; I will give him -a fear- 
ful heart and languishing eyes, and a soul consumed with pen- 
siveness."* Good, Lord! Thou hast helped many hundred 
sinners in that way; for they could not bear the gnawing worm 
of conscience, that left them no repose day or night. But even 
that has done him no good hitherto; he has smothered his con- 
science and drowned its clear voice by the manifold sins that he 
has committed over and over again. What shall I do? What 
plan shall I have recourse to, that I may induce him to repent, 
and to avoid eternal death? 

' rropterhoc ecce ej!0 lactabo earn, et ducam earn in solitudinem, et loquar ad cor ejus. 
2 Etegressus foras Petrus flevlt amare.— Luke xxil. 62. 

' In funicujls Adara traham eos, in vincuUs charitatis; et ero eis quasi exaltans jugum 
super rnaxillas eonim : et decllnavi ad eum ut vesceretur.— Osee xl. 4 
* Cor pavidum, et deflclentes oculos, et anlmam consumptam moerore.— Deut. xxviil. 65. 


At last He 
must use 
the rod. 

176 The Trials with which God Visits the Sinner. 

There is still one means left, Lord, which Thy servant 
David formerly proposed to Thee: "AYith bit and bridle bind 
fast their jaws, who come not near nnto Thee." ' Subdue, then, 
this unruly horse; torment and annoy this lethargic sick man, 
and give him neither rest nor peace; for, as Thou Thyself hast 
said by Thy Prophet Isaias, ''Vexation alone shall make you 
understand what you hear."' Punishment alone will arouse 
him; let the undutiful son suffer hunger and thirst, so that he 
may be forced to return to his Father's house. Good, then, says 
the Lord; since I have the eternal welfare of sinners at heart, 
"I wili visit their iniquities with a rod: and their sins with 
stripes." ' '* I will kill, and I will make to live; I will strike, and 
I will heal." * I will torment them until they are cured. I will 
allow that proud man, that vain woman, to fall into disgrace; 
then they will correct their pride, and, by being humbled, will 
learn that I, whom they have hitherto thought so little of, am 
their sovereign Lord, and that I can put down the mighty from 
their seat, and exalt the humble. I will send misfortunes to 
that unjust extortioner, that miser, that mistress of a family 
who is so hard to the poor; then they will enter into themselves, 
and will see with humility that it is from My hand that all tem- 
poral blessings come; and in the sorrow of their hearts they will 
cry out: ''Our Father, who art in heaven, give us this day our 
daily bread." That impure young man I will throw on his bed 
by a violent fever; I will deform that vain and frivolous young 
girl by a hideous cancer; then their unchaste passions will cool 
down, and the dangerous occasions of sin will be removed from 
them. That gambler and drunkard shall in a short time suffer 
the pangs of hunger with his family; then he will forget his 
orgies, remain at home, attend to his work, and ask Me and 
others to have pity on him. This quarrefsome, litigious man 
shall have the worst of it in every lawsuit he undertakes; he 
shall be put to shame by his opponents, and then he will give up 
quarrelling and contending with others. " I will visit their ini- 
quities with a rod: and their sins with stripes;" I will chastise 
those sinners with My rod; I will take away their consolation 
from them by death; I will send them one trial and cross after 
another; I will fill them with tears, and gall, and bitterness, so 
that life will become a burden to them; and then they will at 

» In camo et f reno maxillas eorum con8trlnjf'\ qui non approxlmant ad te.— Ps. xxxi. 9. 

* Tantummodosola vexatiolDtellectum dablt auditui— Isa. xxvIlJ. 19. 

^ Visltabo In virjfa Inlqaltates eornm ; et In verberibus peccata eoram.— Ps.lxxxvlli. 33. 

* Ego occidam, et ego vlvere faclam : percutlam, et ego sanabo.- Deut. xxxll. 39. 

The Trials with which God Visits the Sinner, 177 

last open their eyes, and find out by experience how bitter it is 
to abandon their Lord and their God; and when they are 
deprived of all human consolation, advice, and help, they will be 
forced to turn to Me, to bewail their sins, and to amend their 
vicious lives. 

For, as St. Gregory says, "the eyes that are closed by sin are Thus He 
opened by penance."' The merciful God has often taken gj'^^er by^ 
similar vengeance on sinners. " I will go after my lovers," " says violence, as 
the abandoned woman by the Prophet Osee; I will go to niy gj^*^*^?:*^ 
lovers with whom it is well with me. What did the Lord do? 
" Wherefore, behold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns."^ I 
will take away my corn in its season, and my wine in its season;" * 
as if to sa}-, because My people have abandoned Me, I will visit 
them with crosses and trials, so that, like a traveller who finds 
the way blocked up, and is compelled to turn back, they may be 
forced to enter on abetter way and to seek Me again. "And 
she shall say: I will go, and return to my first husband; because 
it was better with me then, than now."* And this, my dear 
brethren, is the only reason why our good God visits with trials 
and afflictions those who are or have been in the state of sin. 
He does not take revenge, as if He were influenced by anger, 
He rather exercises the mercy of a loving father; He chastises 
the sinner to make him enter into himself, and do penance for 
his sins, that he may not be lost forever. "But whilst we are 
judged," says St. Paul, "we are chastised by the Lord, that we 
be not condemned with this world. "** Speaking of this text, St. 
Anselm says: God "does not spare us now, that He may spare 
us in eternity."' " Therefore," he continues, "they who com- 
mit sin in this life, and have nothing to suffer in this life, are in 
a deplorable state; " « for that is a sign that eternal sufferings 
await them. And woe to the Prodigal Son, if things had gone 
well with him in the strange land to which he went; or if his 
father, through foolish love, as many parents do, had sent him 
money to support him there; he would certainly have continued 
to lead a vicious life to the end! What a fortunate thing it was 

» Oculos quos culpa claudit, poena aperit. 2 vadarn post amatores meos.— Osee ii. 5. 

" Propter hoc, ecce, e^o sepiain viam tuam splnls.— Ibid. G. 

^ Sumam frumentum raeum in tempore suo, et vinum raeiira In tempore suo.— Ibid. 9. 

6 Et dicet: vadam et revertar ad virum meum priorem: quia -bene mihi erat tunc raagis 
quam nunc— Ibid. 7. 

« Dum judlciimur autem, a Domino corriplmur, ut non cum hoc mundo damnemur.— 
I. Cor. xi. 32. 

' Ideo nobis modo non parcit, ut in aetemum parcat. 

• Unde 1111 merito lugendl, qui, in hac vita peccantes, in hac vita non patiuntur. 



He thus 
back the 

I yS The Trials with which God Visits the Sinner, 

for him that his hunger drove him to beg for the Iiiisks that 
were thrown to the swine, and tliat no one gave to him. His 
torn garments and the pangs of privation drove him back to 
wliere he could be well fed and clothed: *^\nd returning to 
himself, he said: How many hired servants in my father's house 
abound with bread, and I here perish with hunger? I will arise 
and will go to my father, and say to him: Father, I have sinned 
against heaven and before thee." ' 

In reference to this subject, we have in the Holy Scripture, 
my dear brethren, an example of a headstrong sinner, another 
of a proud sinner, and a third of a thoroughly wicked sinner. 
The first is the Prophet Jonas; the second, Nabuchodonosor; the 
third, king Manasses. God had commanded Jonas to go to 
Ninive and announce the impending destruction of that city on 
account of its crimes; but, whether through mistrust in the ful- 
filment of the prophecy, or through fear of exciting the anger of 
the king and the other iniiabitants of Ninive, or through pride, 
because he foresaw that the people would do penance, and es- 
cape the threatened punishment, so that he would lose his 
reputation as a prophet, lie disobeyed the divine command, and 
took ship, and went to Tharsis ''from the face of the Lord."" 
His conscience troubled him on account of his disobedience; 
but in spite of that he went away, and refused to do as God had 
told him. There you have an example of a headstrong sinner. 
But was there no way of bringing him back to his duty? Cer- 
tainly; for while he was on the sea, and was trying to get a little 
sleep, in order to forget for a while the torments his conscience 
was causing him, a violent storm arose, which placed the ship 
in the utmost danger, so that the sailors, after having cast lots, 
threw him into the sea, in order to save their own lives; the 
monstrous prison that then opened to receive him, the belly of 
the whale into which he was swallowed down alive, was the 
means of bringing him back to obedience, as he himself says in 
the second chapter: " I cried out of my affliction to the Lord; 
I cried out of the belly of hell. AVhen my soul was in distress 
within me, I remembered the Lord."* When I was not in 
danger, I despised the command of God, and refused to do what 

> In se autem reversus dixit ; quantl mercenaril In domo patris mei abundant panibus. ego 
autein hie fame pereo? Surgam et ibo ad patrem meum, et dicara ei : Pater, peccavi in coelum 
et coram te.— Luke xv. 17-18, 

• A facie Domini.— Jonas i. 3. 

' Clamavl de tribulatione mea ad Dominum. . . . Cum angustiaretur In me anlma roea, 
Domini recordatus sum.— Ibid. II. 3, 8. 


The Trials ihith which God Visits the Sinner. 179 

He told me; but when I was thrown into the sea, and was sunk 
in the depths of tiiat miserable prison, "I remembered the 
Lord; '^ I cried out to Him, repenting of my disobedience, and 
offered to do anything He wished: "I will pay whatsoever I 
have owed for my salvation to the Lord." * Thus freedom drove 
him away from God, and affliction brought him back. "And 
Jonas arose and went to Ninive according to the word of the 

Let us now consider the example of Nabuchodonosor; he be- ^abucho- 
came so inflated with pride, that he caused himself to be publicly 
adoi'ed as a god, as we read in the third chapter of the Book of 
Daniel. Daniel, at the command of God, went to him, and tried 
to bring him to his senses by exhortations and threats; but all 
was in vain; the sick man only became worse. He would walk 
on the terrace of his palace, and casting his eyes on the mighty 
city of Babylon, say with pride: " is not this the great Babylon, 
which I have built to be the seat of my kingdom, by the strength 
of my power, and in the glory of my excellence?" ■* There was 
a proud sinner for you ! Was there any means at all of convert- 
ing: him to God? Now mark what follows, mv dear brethren. 
"And while the word was 3^et in the king's mouth, a voice came 
down from heaven: "To thee, king Xabuchodonosor, it is 
said: Thy kingdom shall pass from thee, and they shall cast thee 
out from among men, and thy dwelling shall be with cattle and 
wild beasts; thou shalt eat grass like an ox." * Then thou wilt 
learn to live like a human being, Avhen thou wilt first have lived 
like a brute beast; in the desert thou wilt acknowledge the God 
whom thou despisest in thy palace; thou wilt learn humility by 
being chastised. "The same hour the word was fulfilled upon 
Nabuchodonosor. " * He was driven out from amongst men, 
and w'andered about in the forest, without house, or shelter, or 
clothing; he ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the 
dews of heaven, until at last his hair grew like the feathers of 
an eagle, and his nails became like the talons of a bird of prey. 
What is become of thy pride now, king? Dost thou acknowl- 
edge thy Master at last? Hear what he says, after having spent 

1 Quaecumque vovi, reddam pro salute Domino.— Jonas 11, 10. 

2 Et surrexit Jonas, et abiit in Niniven, juxta verbum Domini.— Ibid. ill. 3. 
^ Nonne htec est Babylon magna, quara ego aBdiOcavi in domum regni, in robore fortitu- 

diuis me:B, et in gloria decoris mei ?— Dan. Iv. 27. 

■* Cumque sermo adhuc esset in ore regis, vox de coelo rult : tibi dicltur, Nabuchodonosor 
rex: regnum tuum trauslb5t a te, et ab liomlnibus ejicient te, et cum bestiis et feris erit 
habitatio tna ; f(x?nura quasi bos comedes.— Ibid. aS, 2H, 

^ Eadem hora sermo completus est super Nabuchodouosor.— Ibid. 30. 



■ ;! U • * M.^!B5J»^(p^ 

and often 
the Jewish 

1 80 The Trials with which God Visits the Sinner, 

seven vears in that miserable state: '' :N"ow, at the end of the 
days, I, Nabuchodonosor, lifte<l up my eyes to iieaven ... and I 
blessed the most High, and I praised and glorified Him that 
liveth forever: for His power is an everlasting power, and His 
kingdom is to all generations; and all the inhabitants of the 
earth are reputed as nothing before Him . . . and there is none 
that can resist His hand. . . Therefore I, N"abuchodonosor, do 
now praise and mai^ify and glorify the King of heaven; because 
all His works are true, and His ways judgments, and them that 
walk in pride He is able to abase.^'' Compare now, my dear 
brethren, the conceited idea the king first had of himself, with 
the humble and holy thoughts that now fill his contrite heart. 
That was the fruit of calamity; ^'at the end of the days" of my 
misery, '' I lifted up my eyes to heaven." 

And woe to Manasses if he, too, had not been humbled and 
chastised! He was one of the most impious of the kings of 
Juda, who not only publicly insulted his Creator by adoring 
false gods, and building temples to them, but also led into all 
kinds of vice the people whom he ruled over; he "seduced 
Juda, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to do evil beyond all 
the nations:"" so that they became worse than the heathens. 
God had often spoken to his heart; but he never deigned to 
listen: '^ And the Lord spoke to him and to his people, and 
they would not hearken." ' And yet, the patience and long- 
suffering of the divine mercy! this impious man, sunk in crime, 
became a holy penitent and a public proclaimer of the divine 
praises. How was the change effected? The Holy Scriptures 
tell us that the Lord sent the Assyrians to attack him, and they 
bound him with chains like a common thief, led him off to 
Babylon, and threw him into a gloomy dungeon. There, in the 
darkness of his prison, he began to see what he could not see in 
the clear light of day: "And after that he was in distress, he 
prayed to the Lord his God, and did penance exceedingly before 
the God of his fathers . . . and Manasses knew that the Lord 
was God . . . and he took away the strange gods ... and he 

» Post flnem dlenim ego Nabuchodonosor oculos raeos ad coelum levavl . . . et Altlsslmo 
benedlxl, et viventem in sempiternum laudavj,et gloriflcavi; quia potestas ejus potestas 
sempiterna, et ejus In generationem et ffenorationera ; et omnes habltatores terra, 
apud eum in nihilum reputatl sunt . . . et non est qui resistat manul ejus . . . nunc iiritur 
esro Nabuchodom«or laudo, et maprniflco, et glorlfico, rejfem ccsll ; quia omnia opera ejus 
vera, et viae ejus judlcla, et ^adfentes in superbla potest humlliare.-Dan. ly.. 81 32 34 

Seduxlt Judara, et habltatores Jerusalem, ut facerent malum super omnes rentes -II 
Paral. xxxliJ. 9. ^ 

' Locutusque est Doralnus ad eum, et ad populum illlus, et attendere noluerunt.-Ibid. 10. 


good trials 
were for 
" * them. 

The Trials with which God Visits the Sinner. 181 

repaired the altar of the Lord . . . and he commanded Juda to 
serve the Lord, the God of Israel." ^ Woe to the Jews, also, if 
they had been always left in peace! Oh, ho\y good and how nec- 
essary it was for them often to feel the rod of chastisement! 
What the Holy Scriptures say about them is wonderful. Nearly 
always, during their periods of prosperity, they rebelled against 
God, and, as the text savs, turned their backs on His law: 
" They have turned their back to Me," is the complaint that 
God makes of them by the Prophet Jeremias, " and not their 
face.''^ But nearly always when they were tried by affliction, 
they changed about, and did penance: "And in the time of 
their affliction they will say: Arise, and deliver us."' 

W^hat a fortunate thing it was for David to be tried by afflic- ^a^^^^nd 
tions while he was still in the state of sin! He says himself : at^nowi-^ 
'*For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me; I am turned edge how 
in my anguish, whilst the thorn is fastened. I have acknowl 
edged my sin to thee: and my injustice I have not concealed. 
Mark, my dear brethren, how David calls tribulations first the 
heavy hand of God, and then a pricking thorn. You may have 
remarked how, when a person has something sticking in his 
throat, he works and strains himself to get it out; now, what is 
the best way of helping him? It is to slap him on the back 
with the open hand, for thus he will be assisted in his efforts to 
clear the windpipe of the obstacle that hinders breathing. Now, 
what David means is this: my Lord and my God, how would 
it have been with me, if Thy hand had not so often chastised 
me! My sins would not have allowed me to draw the breath of 
love to Thee; but now, praise to Thy mercy, and thanks to Thy 
chastising hand, I am made right again: " For day and night 
Thy hand was heavy upon me." Again, he calls tribulation 
a pricking thorn: *' I am turned in my anguish whilst the 
thorn is fastened." Why? A person is running at full speed, 
and suddenly he stops. What is the matter? Oh, he cries, I 
have got a thorn into my foot, and must stop to take it out. In 
the same sense David says of himself: I had begun to run in 

> Qui postquam coangustatus est, oravlt Doralnum Deum suum, et egit poenitentiam valde 
coram Deo patrum suorum . . . et cognovit Manasses quod Dominus ipse esset Deus . . . et 
abstulit deos alienos . . . porro Instauravit altare Domini . . . praecepitque Judae ut serviret 
Domino Deo Israel.— II. Paral. xsxiii., 12, 13, 15, 16. 

' Verterunt ad me tergum, etnon faciera.— Jerem. ii. 27. 

' Et in tempore affllctionis suae dicent : surge, et libera nos.— Ibid. 

* Quonlam die ac nocte gravata est sup; r me manus tua : conversus sum in serumna mea, 
•ium conflgitur spina : delictum meum cognitum tibi feci ; et In justitiam meam non ab- 
scondl.— Ps. xxxi. 4, 5. 


woe to the 
sinner who 
Is left In 
peace, and 
Is not 

chastised by 

For that Is 
a sij^TQ that 
God Is 
an^-y with 

182 The Trials with which God Visits the Siniier. 

the way of sin; and how far might I not have gone, if some- 
thing had not occurred to stop me? :N"ow I stand still and 
cannot go any farther, because Thou, my God, hast placed 
the thorn of tribulation in my way: ''\ am turned whilst 
the thorn is fastened." Woe to Augustine, if he had not been 
wounded by tliis thorn! Hear how joyfully and thankfully he 
addresses God, who chastised him: '- Thou, Lord, wert there 
mercifully chastising me"' Thou wert against me in every- 
thing, Lord, and apparently didst treat me harshly; but in 
reality Thou wert merciful to me. Thou hast made bitter to 
me everything that could lead me into sin; Thou hast strewn 
the way of sinful pleasures with thorns for me; and therefore I 
praise Thy gracious providence, for I never should have freed 
myself from the miserable state of sin, if Thou hadst not been 
thus mercifully cruel to me. 

And woe to you, sinner, whoever you are, if during your 
long-continued habits of sin you do not feel the thorn of adver- 
sity and the weight of God's chastising hand! Woe to the sick 
man, when he is gone so far that the physician says he is 
to be refused nothing; for that is a sign that there is no hope 
for him. Unlucky the horse that is allowed to roam about at 
will. If you see a horse in the field with one foot tied, you 
know at once that he has an owner, who wdll com.e to get him 
in the evening. But if you see one roaming about witliout 
bridle or halter, you at once think that he is of no more use, 
and that he is turned jiit to become the prey of the first wolf 
that sees him. man, in what a miserable, dangerous state you 
are, when you live in sin! Yet if you are tied, if you have 
much trouble to bear, you can console yourself to some extent; 
for that is a sign that the great Master has still a care for ) uu 
and your salvation. But if things are prospering wuth you, and 
you have nothing particular to trouble you, then, indeed, I am 
sorry for you, for you are in a bad way. '' Sinners," says St. 
John Chrysostom, ''should always be in dread; but more 
especially when they have nothing to suifer." " 

For that is a sign that God is embittered against them, that 
He has no further care for them, and that He has delivered 
them over as a prey to the hellish wolf. '' Do you wish to 
know," asks St. Augustine, " how great a punishment it is to 
suffer nothing?"' Ask David, and he will tell you: "The 

* Aderas Domine mlseiicorditer saevlens. 

' Semper quidem tlmere peccantes oportet, maxime vero cum grave patluntur nihil. 

* Vis nosse nulla poena, quanta sit poena ? 

The Trials with which God Visits the Sinner. 183 

sinner hath provoked the Lord, according to the multitude of 
His wrath He wHl not seek him,"' He will allow him to go 
without taking interest enough in him to inflict salutary punish- 
ment on him. If the anger of God were not so great, says St. 
Augustine, He would not allow the sinner to go unpunished; 
but because His anger is extreme. He does not punish him."' 
One man is given to all sorts of unjust practices, and makes 
innch profit with his ill-gotten gains; another indulges in im- 
purity for years, and yet has tHe name of being a good Christian; 
a third has not made a good confession for the last ten years or 
more, and yet he has nothing special to complain of; things go 
very well with him. How is that? God is extremely angry * 

with him, and therefore does not visit him with chastisement, 
and that is a sign that eternal damnation awaits him. Many, 
says another holy Father, are disobedient like Jonas; but they 
are not cast into the sea like Jonas. Why? " Because the sea of 
the bottomless ab3^ss is yawning for them." ' Many have com- 
mitted the same and more numerous sins than the Israelites in 
the desert; but they are not like the Israelites bitten by fiery 
serpents; why? "Because the worm that dies not is awaiting 
them." * Many who lead most wicked lives have, like the rich 
glutton, a very happy time of it here; why? "Because the 
eternal flames of hell await them.'* 

holy David, what reason hadst thou not to expect this divine The sinner 

•^ should dep- 

anger to fall on thee, when thou didst cry, with a heart full of recate 
anffuish: '* Lord, rebuke me not in Thy indignation! "* this anger. 
Allow me not to sin and to go unpunished! That my own son q,^^^ 
persecutes me; that I am driven out of my kingdom; that I am chastise 
reviled by my own subjects; that Thou visitest my people '^* 
with famine, war, and pestilence; these are punishments that are 
bitter enough; yet they are useful for my soul and they will help 
me to amend. They are punishments that bring me consolation, 
since they prove that Thou still hast a care for me: " Thy rod 
and Thy staff, they have comforted me." ' Yes, Lord, I am 
readv to suffer more and more of such chastisements: tliev come 
from the hand of a loving Father; and therefore I v/ill kiss with 
thankfulness the hand that thus strikes me. But one thing I 

1 Exacerbavlt Domlnum peccator, secundum multitudinem Ine suas non quaeret. — Ps. 


2 Ideo non exqulrit, quia multnm irascltur. 

' Quoniam ;:^laff>!g eos expectat abyssi semplternl. 

* Manft eos «ermi«, qui ^on morjetur. 

* Domine, ne In furore tuo arguas me !- -Ps vi. 2. 

* Virga tu«t et ^mcuIx':. tuu» : ipsa me oonsolatp sunt.— Ibid. xxli. 4. 

"^^-"''-^-'■^^-^-a aaafflt&iaadteja 

1 84 The Trials with which God Visits the Sinner, 

The Trials w all which God Visits the Sinner. 185 

. Therefore 
God melius 
well with 
the sinner 
when Me 
sends him 

and exhor- 
tation to 
hear dally 
crosses with 

beg of Thee, Lord: '^ Rebuke me not in Thy indignation;^' 
let me not run on in the road of vice without punishing nie I 
This is the divine anger that even innocent and holy souls have 
feared, although tliey were not conscious of any mortal sin, so 
that they often earnestly begged of God to send them tribula- 
tions, as a sign that He was still their good Friend; but if they 
were free from trials for any length of time, they would com- 
plain to God, and examine their consciences more carefully, to 
see if they had not perhaps been guilty of some sin, on account 
of which lie had determined to reward their former good works 
only in this life. 

See now, my dear brethren, how fortunate in the midst of 
his misfortune the sinner is, when God chastises him here, in 
order to bring him to repentance. " Oh, happy the servant," says 
Tertullian with reason, '' whose amendment the Lord insists on, 
and with wliom He deigns to be angry in a fatherly manner." ' 
And how wrongly and foolishly we often act by murmuring and 
complaining on account of misfortune or adversit}^, and by look- 
ing on God as if He were a hard task master, who, through ill- 
will towards us, takes a pleasure in seeing us suffer! Oh, no! the 
stripes that we receive from His fatherly hand are all so many 
proofs of His love. '' Esteeming these very punishments to be 
less than our sins deserve, let us believe that these scourges of 
the Lord, with which, like servants, we are chastised, have hap- 
pened for our amendment, and not for our destruction."'' So 
spoke Judith to the citizens of Bethulia, when they were be- 
sieged by the enemy, and were in sore distress. 

Therefore, my dear brethren, no matter how numerous and 
grievous our daily crosses may be, let us bear them with humility 
and thankfulness from the hand of our heavenly Father, and at 
least be resigned to His holy will. He means well with us when 
He sends us crosses, if we have already committed sin; for He 
thus enables us to pay, with a light and easy suffering, the debt we 
have contracted, so that we may not have to suffer the far more 
grievous punishments of the next life. He means well with us 
if we ar.e still innocent and have never sinned, (ah, how few 
there are of whom that could be said with truth!) because by 
trials He keeps us out of the occasions of sin, and gives us an 
opportunity of increasing our merit and our eternal glory. He 

> O beatum servura, cujus emendationl Domlnus Instat, cui dlffnatur irascl. 

» Reputantes peccatis nostrls haec ipsa suppllcia minora esse flapella Domini, qulbus quasi 
servl corrlpimur ad emendationem, et nou ad perditlonem nostram evenisse credumus— 
Judith viii. 37. 

means well with us if he sends us crosses when we are still in the 
state of sin. which, I liope, is not the case with any one here; be- 
cause, by sending us crosses. He is crying to bring us back to Him- 
self and to His grace. It is better for us that He should chastise 
us here and reward us hereafter, than that He should spare us 
here, and punish us hereafter. Let us not be amongst the num- 
ber of those wretched mortals who daily groan under the weight 
of the cross of bitterness and sorrow that they have to bear in the 
world, and yet lead godless lives. And, unfortunately, amongst 
the common people who have to earn their bread by the sweat of 
their brow, nay, even amongst the poorest beggars, who have 
hardly enough to still the pangs of hunger, there are somatimos 
found the most abandoned and wicked people, who find m the 
very means tiuit the good God offers them to be converted and 
to refrain from sin only an occasion of greater depravity, of rob- 
bing and stealing, of swearing and cursing, of blasphemy and de- 
spair; and thus, of the crosses that God sends them to bring them 
to heaven, they make by their perverse wills a road to eternal 
ruin. Alas, poor souls, if I pity any one, I pity you! You have 
to suffer here, and to suffer in eternitv! You have no consolation 
here, and' you will have none hereafter; you are tormented here, 
and will be tormented there; here you have a hell, and there 
hell awaits you also! What a terrible thing! 

Ah, Christians, may God keep us from the madness of making ^"^^ ^ 
such a miserable exchange of one state of misery for another ! them for 
Let us rather, according to the wish and intention of our heaven- repentance. 
ly Fatlier, and enlightened by the crosses He sends us, say, when 
we have sinned, the words of the Prophet Jeremias, *^ Thou 
hast chastised me, and I was instructed." ' Thou hast punished 
me, Lord, and hast enlightened me thereby. I adore, love, and 
praise Thy goodness and mercy, in having thus awakened me 
out of the sleep of sin! I now acknowledge and confess with 
bitter sorrow that I have often and shamefully offended Thee: 
^' I will go and return to my first husband; because it was better 
with me tiien, than now." I will arise and go back to my for- 
mer Master, with whom I was better off than I now am in the 
state of sin. If I have trials to bear in His service, I shall at all 
events have the consolation of knowing that I am His friend. 
His child. His heir. I resign myself henceforward, Lord, to 
Thy fatherly providence, and humbly submit to the cross Thou 
wishest me to bear! Chastise my body, but spare my soul; act 

» Castlgasti me, et eruditus sum.— Jerem. xxxi. 18. 




1 86 Ma7y is the Refuge of Peniie^it Sinners. . 

according to Thy justice with me in this life; but show Thy 
mercy to me hereafter, that it may be true also of me, that, 
*' The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was 
lost." Amen. 

0)1 the Advantage of Trials for the Just and Pious, see the 
following fourth and fifth parts. 



Mary assnmed into lieaven is the snre refuge and helper of sin- 
ners who wish to do penance : therefore sinners should have 
recourse to her, to get the grace of repentance.— Prm(;//e<^ on 
the feast of the Assumptioti. 


Assumpta est Maria in ccehirn : gaudent angeli.—Eoly Church. 
'' Mary is assumed into heaven; the angels rejoice." 

That I readily believe. And good reason you have, angels, 
to rejoice and be glad on this day of triumph, on which you re- 
ceive into your midst your sovereign Queen, whose arrival you 
had so long expected I Eejoice therefore, and sing a hymn of 
praise to this ever- Blessed Virgin! But what do we gain thereby? 
''Mary is assumed into heaven;" our dearest Mother is gone 
from us, and we, poor orphans, are left behind in this valley of 
tears; and so, while you rejoice, must we weep and lament, since 
our Comfortress and Advocate is taken away from us? Yes: so 
it is: "to thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to 
thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this 
valley of tears." Yet, what am I saying? Dry your tears, all ye 
mortals on earth, and rejoice, too, with the angels! "Let us all 
rejoice in the Lord," as the Holy Catholic Church exhorts us to- 
day in the Holy Mass, "celebrating a festive day in honor of the 
Blessed Virgin Mary, at whose Assumption the angels rejoice, 
and praise the Son of God." In truth, my dear brethren, we have 
all, without exception, sinners as well as just, good reason for 
gladness; for if Mary were not in heaven, the just would not have 
at the throne of God a Patroness, by whom it is God's will that 

Mary is the Refuge of Penitent Sinners. 187 

they should gain heaven; if Mary were not in heaven, sinners 
would not have at the throne of God a Refuge and Helper to ap- 
pease for them the divine anger, and to obtain for them the 
grace of true repentance and conversion. Sinners, since you 
are in the majority amongst men, I address myself now partic- 
ularly to you; if the number and grievousness of your sins deter 
you from returning to God, merciful as He is, then do not lose 
courage; rejoice; Mary is assumed into heaven; go to her boldly; 
she will certainly receive you, if you wish to be readmitted by 
penance to the friendship of God. This I shall now show in de- 
tail, to the glory of this Mother of mercy, to wliom, after God, I 
must confess that I have to ascribe everything tliat is good in me. 

Plan of Discourse. 

Mary assumed into heaven is the sure refuge and helper of sin- 
ners who wish to do 2}enance: such is the whole subject of this 
sermon, which shall be partly a panegyric of the Queen of heaven, 
and partly a source of consolation for sinners who have lost cour- 
age. Sinners, have recourse to the Blessed Virgi?i in order to 
obtain the grace of repentance. Christians, let us all honor and 
love her constantlij : such shall be the conclusion. 

Mary, Mother of mercy, the gift that we expect from thy 
generous hands on this, thy glorious day of triumph, on which 
thou wert assumed into heaven to be the special advocate of 
sinners with thy Son, is the grace of repentance for sinners, and 
of true devotion and love of thee for us all. Help us, holy an- 
gels, to obtain this request from your Queen and Mistress, Mary. 

Here I take for granted a truth affirmed bv all the holv Fathers The j?race 
who have written in praise of the Mother of God, namely, that, penance 
in the present arrangement and disnensation of His Providence, comes 
God gives no grace to men which does not come through the ha'^^s'^oi^*^^ 
hands of Mary. There is no mistaking tlie words of St. Bernard Mary, 
on this point: *'God wishes us to have nothing, unless what 
passes through the hands of Mary."' Other holy Fathers call 
her the neck of the Church, bv which all ffifts and craces flow 
down on the mystic body, the faitliful, from Jesus Christ, the 
Head. '' If we have any hope, any confidence of salvation, any 
grace, we know that it flows over on us from her." "" All this is 
truly a gift of the divine generosity, but we must know that we 
receive it through the hands of the Blessed Virgin. Therefore 

* Nihil DOS Dens habere volult, quod per Maria? raanus non transiret. 

2 Si quid spei, si quid salutis, si quid gratlae in nobis est, ab ea noverimus redundare. 


1 88 ATary is the Reftige of Penitent Sinners. 

we cry out to her with the Catholic Church: '^Mary, Mother of 
grace, Mother of mercy." ' '' Hail, our life, our sweetness, and our 
hope/''' From this truth, which I shall prove more m detail on 
a future occasion, it follows, as a matter of course, that the grace 
of true repentance for the sinner must necessarily come through 
the hands of Mary; for if all graces, without exception, are dis- 
pensed by her, certainly the grace of repentance is included 
amongst them. 
And there And, indeed, there is no grace that the Blessed Virgin is more 
which she ^^^^^3' to bestow, none that her true children, who through weak- 
dispenses so ness have fallen into mortal sin and lost their right to heaven, 
readuy. ^^^^^ expect from her with greater certainty, than the grace to 
repent and to return to God. This readiness and generosity 
come, first, from the necessity of this grace, without which all 
other gifts and benefits of Cod can be of no use to the sinner, 
and there is no hope of his eternal salvation. If I have griev- 
ously olfended God, and do not penance, which I cannot do 
unless God first gives me His supernatural grace, all is lost for 
me, and I am doomed to hell; so that, while I am in that miser- 
able state, there is nothing more necessary for me than the grace 
of true repentance. Again, that generosity comes from the love 
of Mary for her Divine Son, and from her intense desire to 
increase His honor and glory, and to extend His kingdom on 
earth, which is increased by the conversion of sinners, to save 
whom from the power of the devil, Jesus Christ, Mary's Son, 
shed His blood, and died a shameful death on the cross. Third- 
ly, it comes from her ardent desire for the salvation of all men, 
and from the inexhaustible, innate charitv and mercv that slie 
has especially for souls that are going astray; a charity and a 
mercy that, according to the testimony of the holy Fathers, are 
so great and wonderful that, dearly as she loves her Son, cruel 
as was the sharp swoid that pierced her heart when she saw Him 
hanginor on the cross, nevertheless, if it Were necessarv for cur 
' salvation and in accordance with the will of our heavenly Father, 
she is ready to nail to the cross, with her own hands, that Son 
whom she loves so much, so that we poor mortals might be saved 
from hell, and become heirs of the kingdom of heaven. There- 
fore, witli reason is she called the Mother of mercy, and not in 
vain do we cry to her in our necessities, " turn, then, most 
gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us, clement, 
O pious, sweet Virgin Mary/' 
^ Maria. Mater firratiae. Mater miserIiordl8B « vita, duloedo. et goes nostra, salve. 

Ma7y is the Refuge of Penitent Sinners, 189 

Finally, she is impelled to this mercy still more strongly by ^aryisap- 
what she knows to be the will of her Son Jesus Christ; for He ^^d^amx 
has appointed His Mother as mediatrix between Himself and between 
men, and' He has raised her in heaven, above all the choirs of ^'^^^^ 


angels and all the elect, as the advocate and patroness of sinners, 
that she may regain for them what they have lost, and be to them 
a city of refuge, in which they can be safe from the anger of the 
divine justice. Long before her birth, our Blessed Lady was 
prefigured in Queen Esther, who was raised to the throne that 
she might intercede with king Assuerus for the Jewish people, . 
Avho were already condemned to death, and persuade him to re- 
voke the sentence against them, and restore them to freedom. 
Another figure of that powerful advocate for sinners was Abigail 
who, by offering presents to David, soothed his anger against her 
foolish husband, the wicked Nabal. A symbol of tlie necessity of 
her help for those who are in the state of sin is the ark of Noe, 
in which alone safety was to be found from tlie waters of the 
Deluge. 'MVho is she," ask the angels in the Canticle, ''that 
cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright aa 
the sun?''' We know that it is the most Blessed Virgin who is 
alhided to in those words; but why is she compared to the 
morning rising, to the moon, and to the sun.^ *'Tlie moon 
shines during the night," says Pope Innocent, J' the aurora early 
in the morning, and the sun during the day."'^ Mark, my dear 
brethren, the explanation of the m3'Stery : "the night is the state 
of sin;'" ''the morning rising is the beginning of penance;"* 
"the daj is the state of sanctifying grace."* l^ow, Mary is the 
aurora, the moon, and the sun at once; like the moon, shi3 shines 
OQ sinners, that they may not, in the unhappy state in which they 
are, be hurried before the divine justice, and be cast into eternal 
darkness; like the aurora, she shines on those who desire to do 
penance, that they may obtain from God the grace of a true 
supernatural contrition; like the sun, she shines on the just, 
that they may be kept from sin, and may persevere in grace. 

Jesus Christ, her Divine Son, has confirmed the truth of this By whom 
to St. Catherine of Siena. " Mary," He says, " is that sweetest ^^2^J^«=in< 
bait, by which I attract sinners to Myself." ' No living thing is nere to be 
so shy as a fish in the water; the least noise, or the shadow of a ^^^^^rted.. 

* Quae est Ista quae propn'editur quasi aurora consurgens, pulchra ut luna, electa ut sol ? 
—Cant. vl. 9. 

'^ Luna lucet In nocte, aurora in diluculo, sol in die. a Nox calpa- 

* Diluculum poenitentia. « Dies gratia- 

* Maria est esca dulcisslma, qua ad mo peccatores traho. 


190 Mary is the Reftige of Penitent Sinners, 

finger is enough to make it dart down into the depths, through 
fear of being caught; yet, at tlie same time, there is no animal 
more easily caught than a fish, if one has only a well-baited hook. 
The same quality may be observed in sinners; like fish, they swim 
awav from the hand of God into the troubled waters, and hide 
themselves in the abvss of their vices, and sometimes for whole 
years they refuse to allow themselves to be caught by the grace 
of God. God, who is so long-suffering and patient, will not com- 
pel them by violence, lest He should lessen His own honor and 
their freedom and merit; but He wills that they should of their 
own accord retuni to Him by sincere penance; and what does He 
do to effect that? '* Mary is that sweetest bait by which I attract 
sinners to Myself." He uses His Mother's mercy as a bait to 
bring all those fish back to Him; they have some remnants of 
devotion and love to the Mother of God left, and so, by her 
intercession, they receive the grace of repentance, and thus from 
her hand they get pardon from God. 

Oh, if in former times this Mother of ^ferov and refuse of 

Mary came, . .. o 

God was sinners had been in the world, the justice of God would not have 
very severe taken such fearful vengeance ou souls! I shudder and tremble 
when I read in the Holy Scripture how sinners often fared after 
the commission of sin, and I must acknowledge that in those 
days what the Lord said by the Prophet Isaias was quite true: 
*' Hell hath enlarged her soul, and opened her mouth without 
any bounds; " ' and has swallowed souls without number. For 
then, as our Father Cornaeus says, *' there was not Mary, the 
Mother of mercy," ' to appease the anger of God, and to rescue 
many a poor soul out of the state of sin by obtaining for it the 
grace of repentance, thus saving it from hell. In the very dawn 
of creation many millions of the princes of heaven rose in re- 
bellion against God by giving way to a single thought; and their 
offended Creator hurled them all at once into the pit of hell, 
without allowing them a moment for repentance, and without 
leaving them any hope of pardon; for then there was not Mary, 
the Mother of mercy, who perhaps would have obtained for many 
of those rebellious spirits the grace of repentance. 

Later on men began to lead impure lives on earth, and the 
Lord was so angry with them, that He destroyed the whole earth 
by a deluge, and hurled down to hell numbers of impenitent 
souls. Mary, the Mother of mercy, was not there then; if she 

» Dllatavit Infernus aQlmam suam, et aperuit os suum absque ullo temilno— Is. v. 14. 
* Nimlrum non erat tunc Maria, Mater miserlcordise. 


with SiD- 

Against sin- 
ful men on 
• earth. 

!?^— >->, 

Mary is the Reftcge of Penitent Sinners, 191 

had been, perhaps at her intercession God would have laid aside 
the rod with which He chastised the world so severely. Later 
still, fire was rallied down from heaven on Sodom and Gomorrha. 
and those cities, with all their inhabitants who were sunk in im- 
purity, were burned to ashes, while again many sinful souls 
were cast into hell. The sea swallowed Piiarao with all his host, 
while he was in the very act of disobejing the divine command. 
How often were not the Israelites punished by sudden death 
immediately after having committed sin? For there was not 
then Mary, the Mother of mercy, to take the sword of vengeance 
out of the hand of God, and to procure the conversion and salva- 
tion of many a soul. 

My dear brethren, if the world still exists in our own days, in That they 
spite of the fearful number of sins that are committed in it; if pun^h^ed*TO 
fire does not descend from heaven on many a wicked city; if we severely is 
are not often exposed to the danQ:er of a deluije, which we so ?"® ^ 

. o o ^ Mary's 

richly deserve; if the earth does not often open under our feet merciful 
and swallow us up, while we are actually engaged in offending P^y^"- 
God; if many persons, whose lives. are more wicked and brutish 
than those of any in former times, are not at once struck dead by 
lightning; if an angry God bears so patiently with the greatest 
sinner, and w\iits till the very last moment for him to repent, 
who is the cause of that? Such is the question asked by Po- 
merius, an old author, who wrote about the year of Our Lord 
490. He says: *^ Since evils are now continually on the increase 
in the world, why does God spare it now; for H§ used to punish 
far more severely sins far less than those that are committed 
nowadays? " ' He answers the question himself by saying: '^ All 
this God does ou account of the Blessed Virgin."^ 

She is the rainbow that God set in the heavens after the Proved 
Deluge, as a sign that He would nevermore destroy the world ^^f^°^^ 
by a flood: ''My bow shall appear in the clouds; and I will ^ 

remember My covenant with you . . . and there shall no more 
be waters of a flood, to destroy all flesh."' Speaking of this 
text, Richard of St. Victor says: "' Mary is the rainbow; " * and 
she is placed as a sign of mercy and grace, to show that God 
will not, as formerly, pour out the vials of His wrath on the 

* Cum continuo in mundo accrescant mala ; quare parcit nunc mundo Deus? qui ollm 
multo liis minora pi'ccnta acrins punivit ?— Ponier. serm. ii. de B. V. 

' Totum tn)c facit propter BeaUim Virglnem. 

3 Ap])areblt arcus meus In nubibus, et recordabor foederis mei voblscum . . . et non erunt 
ultra aquae diluvll ad delendum universam carnem.— Gen. ix. 14, 15. 

*■ Ipsa est arcus in nubibus. 

have to 
tbank her 
that they 
are not now 
lost, and 
have done 
Shown by 

192 Alary is the Reftige of Penitent Sinners. 

earth. When a cluirch begins to fall to niin, my dear brethren, 
and the roof already sliows signs of giving way, tlie best thing 
to do is to bniUl iin arch nnder it to support it and to hold the 
building together. infinite goodness of God I many a time 
does the world deserve to be destroyed on account of its sins 
and vices; but God says: '' My bow shall appear in the clouds; " 
Mary, the Mother of Mv Son, *' shall be the sign of the covenant 
which I have established between Me and all flesh upon the 
earth." ' This is the arch that keeps the world from falling to 
pieces. With reason docs St Fulgentius say, "the heavens 
and the earth would long since have fallen to ruin, if they had 
not been sustained by Mary's prayers."' 

It is this Mother of mercy that I and many other sinners have 
to tliank that we are not now in hell, that we have seen how mis- 
erable we were when in the state of sin, that we have done true 
penance, and that we now have a sure hope of heaven. I will 
here use as a simile a very interesting incident, related by St. 
Meliton, which I read in one of the works of a Kempis: 
"A certain pious person had trained a pet bird how to speak, aud 
to say * Ave Maria' whenever a knock came to the door, or when 
any one spoke to it. It happened one day that its cage was left 
open through carelessness, and the bird flew away out of the 
window% When it had been flying about for some time, a hawk 
attacked it, and was on the point of seizing it, when the poor bird, 
terrified almost out of its life, uttered its usual cry, * Ave Maria,' 
and at once the hawk fell to the ground as if it had been shot, 
while the other bird returned to its cage.'' How many of us, my 
dear brethren, are like this bird? We are kept in a cage, that 
is, in the bounds of the divine law; but how soon we get tired of 
confinement! As soon as we find tlie door open, that is, when 
the first occasion of sin offers, we fly off at once to seek our free- 
dom; but alas, what a grievous mistake we make; for we fly into 
the talons of the hellish bird of prey, as often as we commit a 
mortal sin. and how many times might he not have dragged us 
down to hell, if an "Ave- Maria" had not helped us? One or 
two "Hail Marys," learned in childhood from pious parents, or in 
school, or at catechism, and repeated daily through custom, par- 
rot-fashion, or some small remnant of devotion to the Mother of 
God, inspired by God during youth, and not quite forgotten even 

» Erlt sijfnum foederis, quod constitul inter me et omnem camera super terram.— (ien. ix. 

» Coelum et terra jam diu ruisaent, si non Maria preclbus sustentasset. 

Mary is the Refuge of Penitent Sinners, 193 

while the soul is in mortal sin, may have perhaps often lessened 
the power of the devil, shown the sinner his danger, and bi'ought 
him back again among the children of God by true repentance. 

Would that we could see the happy souls in heaven, and hear ^^'^^^y 

^ ^ "^ ' must cx)n- 

them relate how they attained salvation! How many would fess who 
acknowledge that they were formerly like the bird that escaped ^^ °°^ ^ 
out of its cage, and that some little practice of devotion to the 
Queen of heaven, which they performed daily, was the means of 
saving them from the claws of the devil, so that they were 
enabled to fly into eternal life through the open window, that is 
by the help of Our Blessed Lady (for St. Bernard calls her a 
window of heaven)? Such would be the confession of that 
woman of whom Father Ambrose Cataneus writes, who for 3'ear8 
and years had concealed a mortal sin in confession through 
shame; but when on her death-bed, she prayed only once to the 
Mother of God, '* Mary, my dear Lady, do thou open my 
lips; " * whereupon she at once awakened, as it were, out of a 
dream, confessed the sin without the , least trouble and with 
sincere sorrow, and, after having received the last sacraments, 
went into a happy eternity. There was a bird that had flown to 
the very gates of hell, and was on the point of being seized by 
► the hellish hawk, and a single sigh to Mary saved her. Mary, 
I also cry out, in the name of many sinners who are this very 
day in the state of sin, and refuse to confess their wickedness, 
cither through shame, or because the habit of a certain vice has 
become inveterate with them, so that it seems an impossibility 
to them to be converted, or because they wilfully remain in the 
proximate occasion of sin, and therefore never do true pen- 
ance : Mary, (so you should say every day with me, sinners 
who are thus tied down by your sins) dear Mother of mercy, 
open my lips, which shame has so long closed, that I may 
at last disclose the secret wounds of my soul in confession, and 
have them thoroughly healed; break the chains of the miserable 
habit, that have so long held me captive to Satan; help me to 
roll away the huge stone from the grave in which I have almost 
rotted away, that I may forever give up the company of that 
person who has been the occasion of sin to me, and may return 
to my God with my whole heart! 

If the heavens opened, we should see that young man of whom 
Father Eusebius Nierenberg writes in his " Trophies of Mary." 
This young man, after having lost all his money at play, had 

1 O Maria Domina mea, labia mea aperies. 



194 Mary is the Refuge of Penitent Siiineis. 

denied his faith, abjured God and the saints, wirli the exception 
of the Blessed Virgin, whom he would not renounce, and sold 
his soul to the devil forever. In this desperate state, abandoned 
by God and man, he happened to enter a church, where lie saw 
an image of the Mother of God, that, as he thought, looked at 
him pityingly, and said to him: "Alas, unfortunate man, what 
have you done? But I can help you still.'' Moved by these 
words, he fell on his knees, and commended his unfoitunate 
soul to the Mother of God; whereupon he saw the lifeless 
wooden image turn its face to the Child seated on its arm, and 
move its lips; and although he heard nothing, he knew at 
once that Mary was praying for mercy and pardon for him; but 
the Child turned His face away from His Mother, and this 
happened a second and a third time. ''0 Mary," cried out 
the wretched man, " remember that I did not lenounce thee. 
Pray for me once more." And then he saw the image place the 
apparently living Child on the altar, and, kneeling down before 
Him with out-stretched hands, implore His mercy, until at last 
the young man distinctly heard the words: '' Mother, I cannot 
deny you anything; be it as you wish." ' The image then took 
the Child in its arms again, and resumed its former position, 
while the poor sinner, filled with consolation, repented of his 
crime with bitter tears, and from that time led a most holy life. 
There you have another instance of a fugitive bird being saved 
from the talons of the hellish hawk by Mary. 
Bhown by a Passing over many other examples of the kind, I cannot help 
occurrence, relating One, which suits admirably the simile of the bird that 
escaped out of its cage, and which drew tears fiom my eyes 
when I was reading it. It is related by Theophilus Eainaud, 
out of a work of Father Ambrose Cataneus, who has written a 
long account of it in Italian. I will try to give you the gist 
of it in a few words. In the year 1200, there was in a certain 
convent a nun named Beatrix, who, through carelessness and 
the neglect of venial sins, had become cold in the love of God, 
and, as is generally the case, had gone from bad to worse, until 
she became quite tired of the convent, and wished to go back 
into the world. To this end she used the opportunity her 
occupation as portress gave her, procured a man's clothing, and 
in that disguise left the convent. As she was passing by the 
image of the Blessed Virgin, she turned round and said to it: 
"Mary, I must say good-by to thee now; I must leave thee; but 

* Mater, nihil negare possum precibus tuls. 

Mary is the Refuge of%Penitent Sinners, 195 

do not thou leave me. There are the keys of the convent; keep 
them; and there is my habit, which I am no longer worthy to 
wear; do thou give it to some one who is better deserving of it 
than' I am. Good-by, dear Mother; I am going." She made 
her escape without any one knowing of it, and went off into a 
foreign land, where she was unknown, and there gave herself up 
to a life of vice, and thought no more of God or of His holy 
Mother. After the lapse of many years, a person came to see 
her one day with whom she had been acquainted when she 
was still in the convent; but she did not make herself known to 
him. After some talk, she asked him if he knew such-and-such 
a convent. " Certainly," he answered, " it is not long since I 
have been there." "And did you ever hear," she continued, " of 
a sister in that convent, named Beatrix? What do people say of 
her? " " Beatrix? " said he; " I know her well; I spoke to her be- 
fore I left, and recommended myself to her pious prayers." Sur- 
prised at this, she asked him again if he was quite certain that 
Beatrix was still alive. " Not the least doubt of it," answered the 
man; " she was alive, at all events, when I left, and was mistress 
of novices: for many years she was portress, and has always been 
a model of virtue to all her sisters; she is now about thirty-live 
years of age;" and he then described her personal appearance. 
The description he gave was so accurate, that Beatrix was aston- 
ished, and knew, not what to think. At length, driven by 
curiosity to find out who the strange nun was, she put on her 
disguise again, and went to her former convent, and asked to 
see Sister Beatrix. The supposed Beatrix came into the parlor, 
and the moment the apostate nun looked at her, she saw that 
she was the exact counterpart of herself. Filled with astonish- 
ment and fear, she did not dare to say a word; but the supposed 
nun first addressed her: " Do you not know me, Beatrix? " she 
said. " No," answered the latter, " I do not know you." You 
are right," replied the other, " in saying that you do not know 
me, for you lost all memory of me, and shamefully renounced 
me when you left the convent; but can you not remember to 
whom you gave up your habit and the keys of the convent?" 
Here it at once occurred to Beatrix that she had laid those 
things down before a statue of the Blessed Virgin in her cell. 
" See," said Mary, revealing herself, " who I am. Immediately 
on your departure I assumed your appearance, put on your 
habit, and performed your duties as portress during the whole 
time of your absence. Not a soul has the least suspicion that 

MitJrtfc^j^'-'^-- - 

■ i^^hlL^Jlft ■' 11*1 in 1 

ment to 
sinners to 

196 Mary is the Refuge of Pe7iitcnt Shiners. 

yon left the convent; but meanwhile I have so lived that all the 
sisters have a hi-li idea of your sanctitv, and are surprised at the 
great cliange that has come over jou. Come now and put on 
your habit again; do penance for your sins, and see that vou 
continue the holy life that I have be-un to lead for vou '^ 'At 
these words Mary disappeared, and Beatrix, filled with shame 
and sorrow, put on her habit again, confessed her sins, and at 
the end of a holy and penitent life left her confessor a written 
account, confirmed by oath, of all that had occurred, so that 
after her death he might publish it to the world, to the honor 
and glory of the most Holy Virgin, the Mother and RefuPC of 

Sinners, what think yon of<this? Is there anv one amongst 
you who has hitherto despaired of mercy and therefore madelio 

JorX/ f^""'^ ^^ ''P'"^' ^^^ ^""^"^^^ ^f ^^'^ multitude and enormity of 
his sins? Ah, let him fly with confidence to the Mother of 
mercy. If you have but a spark of love and of devotion to Mary 
left, there is still hope for you, if you are eai-nestly resolved on 
doing penance and amending your life. AVe read in tlie Book 
of Genesis, that when Agar, Sarah's maid, was turned out of the 
house and was wandering about the wilderness in despair an 
angel called out to her: - Keturn to thy mistress, and humble 
th>^elf under her hand; " ' beg pardon for vour fault, and she 
will forgive you. Ah, would that I, too, could crv out like that 
angel, so as to be heard by all the sinners of the world. '* Ke- 
turn to thy mistress, and humble thyself under herhand-" 
return to Mary, the Mother of mercy; humble yourself and be- 
. pardon for the grievous sins you have committed; vou may be 
certain of a kind reception from her. If she rejects vou- then 
you are the first whom she has rejected; for up to the present 
no one who has placed himself under her protection has been 
lost. Go to her, then, at once. Perhaps you do not vet feel 
any desire to repent and amend; then I beg of vou, for the 
eake of your soul's salvation, to pray, and pray without ceasing 
to her, that she may soften your hard heart, and obtain for you 
from her Son the grace of true contrition. Say with the 
Catholic Church : - ^fary, come to the help of a poor wretch, 
who is always falling, and who would wish to rise if he could."' 
Mary, Mother of mercy, I am a poor bird that has flown even 
to the gates of hell; save me from the talons of the hellish bird 

» Revertere ad dorainam tuam, et humliiare sub manu llIIus.-Gen. xvi. 9 
' Succure cadenti, surgere qui curat, populo. 

Mary is the Refuge of Penitent Siizjiers. 197 

of prey; torment my soul; leave me no rest by night or by day, 
until anguish drives me back to my cage, and compels me to 
submit to the sweet yoke of the God whom I have abandoned! 

By way of conclusion I say to all of you, my dear brethren, 
the words that Father Sebastian a Campo of our Society spoke 
on his death-bed, to the great comfort and consolatiou of those 
who were standing round him: ^* children of Adam, serve 
and love Mary better; for you know not how necessary Marv's 
prayers are to you: " ' how necessary, if you wish to live*^ piously; 
how necessary, if you wish to receive many graces from God; 
how necessary, if you wish to be eternally hapjiy. Have w^e 
hitherto served our Mother? Then let us serve her more 
diligently. Have we loved her? Then let us love her more 
earnestly; not like those who honor her with a mere lip-service 
daily or weekly, while they grieve her by their sinful hearts. 
Let us love her with an earnest, child-like, constant love, which 
consists in carefully avoiding all sin, and in following the exam- 
ple of her holy life. 

Mary, dearest Mother, if I can call thee by that name, must 
I not love and serve thee with all my heart? " For next to God 
thou art my only hope, my only help and consolation; and I 
must and do acknowledge before the whole world, that whatever 
good there is in me I have received through thee! It is through 
thee that I am still alive, and am not in hell with the demons. 
In thee, next to God, I pkce my hopes of heaven, although I 
have so often, barred it against myself by my sins. Hencefor- 
ward I entrust to thy care and protection all that I have and all 
that I am. Do thou, O Mother, order everything, my life and 
the end thereof, according to thy will and pleasure! I renew 
the promise I have so often solemnly made in thy sodalities, tliat 
I wish to be thy servant forever, never to abandon thee>^I^ to 
do all I can to further thy honor and glory amongst others. 
Ah, if I could only have the happiness of doing something that 
is really pleasing to thee! If I wqyq only assured that I have ever 
during my life done even a single thing to give thee pleasure; 
then, indeed, would my hopes of salvation be more secured! 
Mary, all I ask of thee is to obtain for me this grace from thy 
Son, that I may love thee more and more, and have a tender de- 
votion to thee! If I should ever again be so unhappy as to lose 
my God through weakness, by committing a mortal sin, (which 

» Pilll Ad®, servite et a mate Mariam dJligentlus : nescitJs quam vobis necessaria sit 
Marlj© deprecatio. 

And to the 
other hear- 
ers to be 
always de- 
vout to her. 

and offer- 
ing of self 
to Mary. 


198 Mary is the Refuge of Peniie^it Sinners, 

mtiYcst thou avert:) all, then, at all events, do not take away 
from me my devotion to thee! As long as that remains with me, 
I can have a great hope of conversion, and consequently of sal- 
vation. But if I ever go so far as to forget thee, to receive noth- 
ing more from thee, and to have no confidence in, or love for 
thee any longer; then, indeed, there would be no hope for me any 
more. Receive me, then, merciful Virgin, as thy servant. I 
shall henceforth never allow a day to pass without offering thee 
my filial service; every Saturday I will observe the evening fast 
in thy honor, or I will perform some other special work of devo- 
tion; every one of thy feast days I will dedicate to thee by a 
good confession and Communion; never will I look on an image 
of thee, no matter where it may be, without showing it due 
honor; and if my first thought on awakening in the morning is 
for God, my second will be for thee; if my first word is in honor 
of God, my second shall be, "Ave Maria." Amen. 

Another Introduction to the same sermon for the Feast of the 



Exurgens Maria . . . ahiit in montana cum festinatione. — 
Luke i. 39. 

" And Mary, rising up, . . . went unto the hill country with 
haste. " 


Whither so hastily, most Blessed Virgin? What impels 
thee to leave thy accustomed solitude, and to journev over the 
rugged mountains? The answer to this question we have in to- 
day's Gospel; and it was given by St. John, who, though hidden 
in his mothers womb, leaped with joy at the arrival of the 
Blessed Virgin. For his soul was still buried in the dark nio-ht 
it was in the state of original sin, and was not in the grace of 
God; and it was to free that soul from the original stain, and 
bring it out of darkness to the light of grace, that Mary journeyed 
in such haste. Hear this ye sinners! If the number and malice 
of your sins make you afraid of appealing to God, merciful 
though He is, then hasten to Mary, who is most anxious to save 
your souls, that are going astray. AVith her you will be sure of 
finding grace and a kind-reception; nay, she will hasten out to 
meet you, and will obtain for you from her Son, whom you have 

Alary is the Refuge of Penitent Sinners, 199 

offended, the grace of true repentance, if you only pray to her 
earnestly for it, as I shall now show, to the greater glory of 
this Mother of mercy. 

Plan of Discourse. 

Mary is a sure refuge and necessary help of sinners who de- 
sire to do penance. Such is the lohole subject, etc. — Continues as 

For several panegyrics and moral discourses on the different 
Feasts of the Blessed Virgin, see the following sixth part* 

iMi .iTit"' ill •Vfi'Wiiilii'n-"'-il 1- 






The sacrament of penance is a necessary means of salvation to 
all who liave sinned after baptism; from Vv^hich truth the follow- 
ing, as well as other conclnsions, is to be drawn, namely, that 
he who sins grievonslyslionld have recourse to this means as soon 
as possible. — Preached on the sixth Sunday after Pentecost. 


Misereor super furbam. — Mark viii. 2. 
*' I have compassion on the multitude.'' 


Our Lord is so good and compassionate towards men, that He 

could not see those who wislied to follow Him suffering temporal 

want, without pitying them; so that He went be3'ondthe bounds 

of nature, and wrought a miracle in order to feed them, that 

they might not die of .hunger; jilthough He often scourges 

whole countries with the plague of famine, for the good of souls, 

that the people may be aroused to do penance for their sins. 

How much greater, then, must nou be the mercy and pity that 

the same God has towards the souls of men; how much greater 

must not be His desire to succor them in their spiritual wants, 

and to give them that on which their eternal salvation depends? 

How much greater must not His pity be for the poor souls He 

sees continuing for years and years in the miserable state of sin? 

Yes, certainly, this is the misery and poverty that move the 

good God most deeply. I have already spoken of the patience 


^r^miM wtwin m 

"■ J!'—^ '■-"* ' 

The Necessity of the Sacrament of Pe7iance. 20 r 

of God in bearing with the sinner, and I have shown how sinners 
should take courage from tliat, to do penance at once and free 
themselves from the deplorable state of sin. But if they are 
afraid to approach God, whom they have offended, then they 
can have recourse to Mary, the Mother of mercy, through whom 
they will certaijily obtain the grace of repentance, if they only 
desire it sincerely. Now I go on to speak of the means that we 
must use in order to free ourselves from sin, and to do true pen- 
ance. Here again we can see how wonderful is the mercy of 
God to the sinner; for the means that He luis prescribed to do 
penance and to obtain complete pardon is a most easy and ad- 
vantageous one, namely, the sacrament of penance. The explan- 
ation of this sacrament will supply me with matter for several 
consecutive instructions. It is a subject, my dear brethren, that 
is useful to all, and one in which most people require some in- 
struction; because, either through ignorance, or through culpable 
negligence, many grievous faults are committed in this matter, 
and on account of those faults many, souls, although they fre- 
quently go to confession, yet remain in the state of sin and are 
lost eternally. I say therefore. 

Plan of Discourse. 

TJte sacrament of penance is a necessary means of salvation to 
all I'jho have sinned mortally after baptism. From, this we shall 
draw for ovr instruction, amongst other conclusions, thefollotving^ 
namely, that he who has grievon.^ly sinned onr/ht to have recourse 
to this means at once. There yo2( have the whole subject of to-day's 

Merciful God, we do not ask Thee now to perform a miracle 
in order to help poor sinners; only move them with Thy ordi- 
nary powerful grace, that they may without further delay make 
use of this necessary moans! To obtain this grace from Thee, 
we fly to Mary, the Mother of mercy and the refuge of sinners. 
Help us, too, ye holy angels, by your prayers. 

I do not now speak of such an absolute necessit}-, that the sin- How the 

ner under no circumstances can obtain pardon unless he actually ^J^^*^™®°' 

receives the sacrament of pennnce; for not even baptism is nee- is necessary 

essary in that sense; that is, the baptism of water; inasmuch ^°^^^^*" 
* . ^ tion. 

as he who has not the opportunity of receiving baptism caii be 
cleansed from sin, and save his soul by the efficacy of a perfect 
love of God, which is called the baptism of desire. Yet the 
baptism of water is called a necessary means of salvation in this 

This neces- 
sity does 
not arise 
from a 

But from a 
Divine Law. 

,202 The Necessity of the Sacrament cf Pe^iajice, 

sense, that he who has the opportunity of receiving it, and de- 
liberatel}' neglects to avail himself of it, cannot go to heaven. 
It is the same with the sacrament of penance for those who have 
committed mortal sin after baptism. If I have sinned grievons- 
l}', an act of perfect contrition will certainly obtain pardon for me 
from God; but there still remains the obligation for me to de- 
clare my sin in confession, when I have the opportunity of 
doing so, ill order that I may receive sacramental absolution. 
For, as tlieologians teach, perfect contrition blots out sin, be- 
cause it includes an earnest resolve to keep all the command- 
ments, and consequently to go to confession when an opportun- 
ity occurs. If I have not that intention, no contrition can help 
me to obtain pardon of my sins; and if I died without confession 
and sacramental absolution, because I did not avail myself of 
the opportunity when offered, I should be lost forever. 

The necessity of confession is not a human invention, or a law 
prescribed by the Popes, as most heretics and opponents of our 
holy religion pretend. For these latter look on auricular con- 
fession as an insupportable burden, and have therefore made a 
point of crying it down, that they may be more at liberty to 
follow their evil inclinations and desii-es; because there is no 
doubt that the fear of the shame one feels in disclosing his 
secret vices is for many a great means of keeping tliem from 
sin, while, if there were no such thing as confession, that res- 
traint would be taken away. Heretics themselves have acknowl- 
edged this. According to the testimony of Dominions Soto, the 
Lutlierans of a certain city of Germany once sent an ambassador 
to the Roman emperor, Charles V. to ask him to use his author, 
ity in re-establishing the custom of auricular confession; for 
they found that, when the people ceased going to confession, 
vice and sin increased in an alarming degree. But they were 
treated with ridicule, and looked on as fools for having abolished 
as a human law that which they themselves were forced to con- 
fess was most advantageous for the common good. 

It is not a Pope, or an emperor, but the great God Himself 
who has placed this restraint on sinful men, and commanded 
them to declare their sins in confession; and that command He 
has made so strict, that He has determined in the law of grace 
not to pardon mortal sin, unless to those who make use of this 
means, provided they have the opportunity of so doing; and 
therefore neither Pope nor emperor can dispense any one, or 
even himself, from the obligation of confession, when mortal sin 

The Necessity of the Sacramerit of Penance, 


has been committed. Jesus Christ promulgated this law to the 
world, when, after His resurrection. He instituted the sacrament 
of penance in the words He said to His Apostles, and in their 
persons to all validly ordained priests: ** Receive ye the Holy 
Ghost: whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them: and 
whose sins you shall retain, they are retained." ' From the power 
given in these words it is evident that one must declare his 
sins to the priest; for how can I forgive or retain, if I know not 
what sins have been committed? And how can I know that, if 
the penitent does not declare his sins? It would be ridiculous 
for the minister of a king to receive full power from his sover- 
eign to decide all disputes amongst his subjects, to condemn, to 
absolve, to punish, and to reward, if the subjects were not bound 
to go to tlie minister and state tlieir case to him. And it 
would have been just as ridiculous for power to have been given 
to priests to forgive or to retain the sins of men, unless men 
were bound to confess their sins to the priests.^ It is therefore 
in accordance with-a divine, and not a human law, that we are 
bound to confess lour sins. And in order to eliminate all erro- 
neous ideas on this matter, t-he Church in the General Council 
of Trent has pablicly proclaimed it as an article of faith: 
'' If anv one denies that sacramental confession is instituted, 
or that it is necessary to salvation according to the divine 
law, or says that it is a mere human invention, let him be 

And truly, if we consider the matter, we shall see that this law it is a most 
which God has imposed on sinful man is a most just one. For ^* 
what less could the great Monarch of heaven and earth demand 
from the miserable and presumptuous moi'tal who has dared to 
offend and insult Him, than that the latter should humble him- 
self, and candidly acknowledge his guilt before the priest who 
sits there in God's place, before he receives pardon for his sins? 
What can be more just than for the sinner to confess that he 
has offended the Divine majesty, and to ask humbly for pardon? 
In olden times, among the Romans, if a man was overcome in 
combat, and wished to make peace with his opponent, he had to 
throw down his arms, and hold out a palm branch to him as a 
sign that he acknowledged him as his master, and would never 

* Acclplte Spirltum Sanctum: quorum remiseritis peccata! remittuntur els, et quoijum 
retinueritls, reteuta sunt.— John xx. 22, 2.3. 

^ Slquls negraverlt confesslonem sacramentalem vel instltutam, vel ad saluteni necessa- 
ilam esse jure divino. . . aut dixerit — inventumesse hominum ; anathema sit.— Trid. Sess. 
14, Can. G. 

^^i. .^^i. -...L-.- 1-.«^^ 

r*— --•■^"*- - - '-^— - — '--"■ - L^^i-^ 


tbeir sin. 

204 The Necessity of the Sacrament of Penance, 

again bear arms against him. Xow wliat does man do when he 
commits a mortal sin? He has with inconceivable audacity 
taken np arms against the almighty God and rebelled against 
His authority. Does he wish to be again received into favor by 
the Almighty? Then, if so, what is more jnst than that he 
should throw down his arms, that is, his sms, by humbly confess- 
ing them, and thereby acknowledge God as his master, and 
promise never more to offend Him? 
vo^from ^^ "^^ imagine, my dear brethren, that Our Lord has placed 
the begin- a new burden on us, when He obliges us to confess our sins. 
Ada^* a d ^^^"^ ^^^^ "^'^^J beginning He exacted that confession, though 
Eve had to not in exactly the same manner as He now does in the sacra- 
ment of penance, from those who offended Him, before He 
would remit their sin and receive them again into His friend- 
ship. Consider the example of our first parents in Paradise, 
after they had eaten the forbidden fruit, and you will see thjit 
even they had to confess their sin. They heard God coming 
towards them, and hid themselves for fear of Him: ** And Avhen 
they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in pai-adise in 
the afternoon air, Adam and his wife hid themselves from the 
face of the Lord God, amidst the trees of paradise." * But they 
could not hide themselves: '' Where art thou?"' said God to 
Adam. But what a strange question for Thee to ask, 0* Lord! 
Can anvthinor be unknown to Thee? And since Thou knewest 
where Adam was, why didst Thou not go to him at once? No, 
says Eucherius; that was not enough for the Almighty; Adam 
must come forward, and acknowledge his sin. And he crept 
out trembling: *^ I heai-d Thy voice," he said, *' in paradise; 
and I was afraid because 1 was naked, and I hid myself."' But 
that is not enough, Adam; you must confess your sin more 
clearlv: "And wlio hath told thee that thou wast naked?"* 
You must have been doing something wrong? Yes, Lord; 
" The woman whom thou gavest me to be my companion gave 
me of the tree, and I did eat."* And thus, at last, the confession 
was finished. But Eve's turn had to come: "And the Lord 
God said to the woman: "Why hast thou done this? And she 
answered: the serpent deceived me." How did he deceive you? 

' Cum audissent vocsm Domini Dei deambulantls in paradiso ad uuram post meridiem* 
abscondit se Adam et uxor ejus a facie Domini Dei in medio ligni paradisi.— Gen. iii. 8. 
2 Cbi es tu?— Ibid. 9. _ 

' Vocera tuamaudivi In paradiso; ettimul, eoquod nudus essem, et abscond! me.— Ibid. 10. 
4 Quis enim indicavit tibi quod nudus esses ?— Ibid. 11. 
^ Mulier, quam dedlstl mlhi sociam, dedit mlhl de U;aio, et comedi.— Ibid- IS. 

The Necessity of the Sacrament of Penance. 205 

What have you done? I have obeyed him; " I di*d eat." ' Mark 
my dear brethren, how the Almiglity acts as if He knew nothing 
of the whole matter; and how He examines them both until they 
confess the truth and declare what led them into sin. He acts, 
so to say, like a father who questions his child befoi-e punishincr 
him, when the latter has committed a fault. WHiei-e have you 
been? he asks, raising the rod. What have vou done? Will 
you not tell me at once? And yet the father may be well aware 
all the time of everything that has happened. 

God acted in the same way with Cain, after the latter had slain cam was 
his brother Abel. " WHiere is thy brother Abel ? " « asked the Lord ''"'^ *^ 
as if He knew nothing about what had occurred. Cain did not Tt^^^ 
wish^to confess, but tried to give an evasive answer: "I know 
not," he said; "am I my brother's keeper?"' '' W'hy art thou 
angry? " asked the Lord, " and why is thy countenance fallen? "« 
Bat Cain remained silent. At last God asked him, '^ W^hat hast 
thou done? " * Dost thou still refuse to answer Me? Then I will 
say what thou hast done: " The voice of thv brothers blood crieth 
to Me from the earth. "« See what thou hast done: and "ISTow 
therefore cursed shalt thou be upon the earth. . . when thou shalt 
ti 1 It, It shall not yield to thee its fruit."' Tertullian asks here, 
why did not God curse Adam and Eve, as well as Cain ? Because 
he says, they confessed their sin; « but He cursed Cain for ref-isincr 
to acknowledge himself guilty of having murdered his brother " 

How difficult the confession was that the Jews had to makeinthnow 
m tiie Old Law! The nature of the sacrifide they had to offer ^"^'^^^ 
m atonement was fixed according to the grievousness and qnalitv '^^^^ "* 
of their sms, and this sacrifice they had to bring to the priest 
and offer publicly. For instance, he who sinned through culpa- 
ble ignorance, had to offer a calf; he who did anything against 
his neighbor, a pair of turtle-doves; he who cursed or swore a 
iamb; (if a lamb had to be offered nowadavs forciirsina there 
^vmld soon be a scarcity of lambs in the world!) and so ""on for 
different sins, as you may read in the fourth, fifth, and sixth 
chapters of Leviticus, ^y, Bellarmine adduces the testimony 
of the Rabbis to show that they were also obliged to confess 

-^Sc?ml'!:lr.riT""""''"= <."arehocfecisti.qu...pondit: serpens decepit 
^ m,i est Abel frater tuus ?-Ibid. iv. 9. 3 x^rr cnstos frai ris mei sum eeo '-Ibid 

\ Quareiratuses? eteur concidit fades tna?-Ib:d. C » S ^Tv-Ibid io 

• Vox sanguinis fatris tui clamat ad me de terra.-Ibld " 

^^^.^ZyZT""" "^"^' ^'•"^"- • ' '"" ^^'"^- ^-^« —on dabittlbl 
8 Idee non maledixit ipsum Adam, nee Evam. ut confesstono revelatos. 

is necessary 


206 The Necessity of the Sacrament of Penance. 

their sins to the priest, that the latter might offer the sacrifice 
in a certain manner. But even if that was not required, the con- 
fession was certainly public enough; for all present might see, 
from the sacrifice that was offered, what kind of a sin the person 
was guilty of. So that, if there was no oral confession, there was 
at all events a confession, and that a public one, by means of 
the ceremonies the sinner had to go through. 

Therefore God has always required confession, as a necessary 
condition of pardon for sin, and consequently for those who 
for the sin- have sinned grievously it is a necessary means of salvation, 
when they have the opportunity. "Let no one," says St. 
Augustine, ''tell me that it is enough for him to repent in his 
heart, that God, who forgives him, knows what he has done; for 
if that were the case, in vain would the keys be given to the 
Church; in vain has Christ said to His Apostles: ' Whose sins you 
shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall 
retain, they are retained.^ To act thus would be to make a 
mockery of the Gospel.^'* Do you wish to know, sinner, what 
you have to do? " Open your mouth to the priest; for that alone 
is the gate of paradise."" If you refuse to do that, or do it not 
honestly, there is no help for you; you are lost. Do what you 
will; give all you have to the poor; chastise your body day and 
night even to blood; fast every day on bread and water; pray as 
long and as much as you can; weep for your sins until you might 
bathe in your tears; if you have not the sincere intention of 
confessing your sins, everything else you do is useless as far as your 
salvation is concerned; you will be lost forever. St. Bonaven- 
ture writes of a religious of his Order who enjoyed a great reputa- 
tion for sanctity; lie was always in prayer, and almost constantly 
engaged in the consideration of God and heavenly things, so 
that he hardly ever spoke a Avord, and even made his confession 
with signs. On one occasion St. Francis happened to come to 
the convent in which this religious was, and the other brethren 
congratulated him on the extraordinary holiness of the latter; 
but St. Francis said to them: there is not the least sign of sane, 
tity in him; you must know that he is a child of destruction, the 
devil has tied his tongue, that he may not confess his sins properly 
as he ought. And the event proved the truth of these words, 
for the supposed saint, who was in reality a most wretched 

* Nemo mlhi dicat: aj?o poenitentlam In corde: novlt Deus qui mlhl Ignosclt: ergo sine 
causa sunt claves daue Ecclesiae ? fnistramus Evanf^llum Dei ? 
' Aperl OS tuum sacerdoti; haec sola est porta paradM. 

The Necessity of the Sacrament of Penance. 207 

sinner, left the Order and came to a miserable end. It is and 
must be an undoubted truth, taught by the Catholic Church, 
that the sacrament of penance, when one has an opportunity 
of receiving it, or otherwise the earnest intention of receiving 
it when possible, is always necessary for salvation to those who 
have sinned mortally. 

From this we can see how grievously many are mistaken in 
this matter. First, those who place more confidence in the so- 
called general absolution, that is given at the hour of death, by 
priests who are empowered to give it, than in the sacramental 
absolution, that is received at confession. For I have been told 
that many, when in danger of death, are more anxious to re- 
ceive that general absolution, than to confess their sins; and if a 
person dies suddenly, we sometimes hear people saying,' ''Thank 
God! the poor man died a happy death; for, at all ''events, he 
received the general absolution." And they think that enough 
has then been done to ensure the man's salvation. Now, my 
dear brethren, I must beg of you to attend carefully to what I 
am going to say, and if you talk to others afterwards about it, to 
be sure to tell them the honest truth, as you will hear it from 
mr. For, generally speaking, tliey who seldom come to sermons 
and who are most in want of instruction, make a great to-do 
about what they pick up here and there from others, and get 
hold of very wrong ideas, as I have often found to be the case. 
If they took the trouble of coming to sermons they would hear 
the matter properly explained, and would know how to speak 
about it. Now mind what I am going to say: I do not intend 
to speak disrespectfully of the general absolution, for I look on 
It as a holy, useful, and salutary thing for all dvinj? people, 
and I advise all who have the opportunity of receiving^ it not to 
neglect doing so; and for my part, I hope to have that happiness 
when I am dymg. But to depend more on it than on sacrament- 
al absolution, or, what is still worse, to neglect confession, or to 
put it off to the last moment, and to trust one's hopes of forgive- 
ness and of eternal salvation altogether to the general absolution, 
that is a grievous mistake that some ignorant people make, and 
they must be taught to avoid it, in order not to imperil their 
souls. To put the matter clearly, either the so-called general 
absolution is a sacramental absolution from sin, and then^it can- 
not be given unless after confession, either by words, or by signs, 
If the sick person is too far gone to speak; and that is a truth 
that no theologian has the least doubt of. But every absolution I 

they are 
wrong who 
trust their 
salvation to 
the so- 

general ab- 

2o8 The Necessity of the Sacrament of Penance. 

Or to cer- 
tain sodali- 
ties and 

receive from any priest who is empowered to hear my confession 
is a general absolution from all sins; because one mortal sin 
cannot be remitted without the others. Or else the general 
absolution is not a sacramental absolution from sin, but merely 
an opportunity of gaining a special plenary indulgence, which 
the members of certain religious Orders are authoiized by the 
Pope to grant to those who are in danger of death. In that 
case there is no doubt that it is most excellent, and is to be 
eagerly sought for, and thankfully received; but it does not 
help to the forgiveness of sin, since its only effect is to remit the 
temporal punishment of sin; nor can that be taken away, until 
the guilt has been remitted by sacramental absolution received 
in confession, or otherwise by perfect contrition, when there is 
no opportunity of confession. This, too, is a truth confirmed by 
all theologians. Therefore, if the dying person has a mortal sin 
on his conscience, and has not confessed it, or, in case he has 
no opportunity of confession, has not made an act of perfect con- 
trition, there is no doubt that he Avill be lost forever, no matter 
how many general absolutions he receives, for they are not 
sacramental absolutions, and cannot free him from the guilt of 
gin, even if he received them from the Pope himself. Have you 
understood me clearly, my dear brethren? I take you all to 
witness that I have not said a word which any sensible man could 
torture into a condemnation or into an expression of contempt 
for the general absolution; for I repeat that I look on it as holy, 
and as most advantageous, and as worthy to be recommended tc 
all Christians. I have merely stated the truth about it, that no 
one in such an important affair as his eternal salvation may be 
led into error in the matter. By divine appointment the sacra- 
ment of penance is instituted for all those who have sinned 
grievously after baptism, as a necessary means of salvation, in 
the sense in which I have already explained the word '* neces- 
sary." If you refuse to confess the sins you have committed, 
when vou can confess them, vou will be lost forever. That is 
a truth that cannot be called into question. 

Secondly, a still more grievous mistake is made by those who 
live on in sin, and trust their hopes of salvation to certain sodal- 
ities and confraternities they belong to, thinking that, if they are 
exact in performing the prescribed devotions, they cannot lose 
their souls, and, as some of them say, that they will be released 
from purgatory on the Saturday after their death. I strongly 
recommend you not to trust too much to those things. If you 

The Necessity of the Sacrament of Pena7ice, 209 

are not in the state of grace, and do not free your soul from 
mortal sin before death by a good confession, or, if you cannot 
confess, by an act of perfect contrition, you will certainlv lose 
your soul, and all your confraternities will not be of the least 
help to you. Thirdly, more stupid still is the error of those who 
lead impenitent lives and do nothing to gain their eternal salva- 
tion, but employ others in certain circumstances, or, as I have 
heard, actually give them money to go to confession and Com- 
munion for them a stated number of times. What a ridiculous 
idea to ask others to go to confession for one! It is the same as 
if I wished to have my own room cleaned up, and ask the maid- 
servant of another house to sweep out her own room. What \ 
good would that do me? If I want my room swept, I must take "" 
the broom in my hand and go to work at it, or else have it swept 
out by another. In the same way, what good can it do your soul 
if others confess their sins, and thereby purify their consciences? 
And to ask others to go to holy Communion for me is the same 
as asking a man to eat for me, when I am hungry. What good 
would that do my stomach ? In the same way, how can it help 
your soul, if others are refreshed at the Table of the Lord? It 
is quite a different thing to have Masses said for one's self or 
for others; for the efficacy of the holy Mass, compared to holy 
Communion, is infinite as a sacrifice of atonement ior living and 
dead. They who go to-confession and Communion can certainly 
pray for you, that God may give you the grace of repentance, or 
may help. you iu a difficulty; but they can do nothing more. If 
you yourself do not try by sincere repentance and a good confes- 
sion to recovei- the grace of God, their prayers in all the Com- 
munions they make will do nothing for your salvation, and very 
little for your temporal prosperity. If you have sinned mortally, . 
you must go to confession, or else? you will certainly be lost. 
Nor is there the least doubt of that. 

Finally, it follows from all this that they are guilty of great How rash 
presumption, and are in a most desperate state With regard to '^'" '^"^ 

+r'ji-i, 1T-I who are in 

their eternal salvation, who, I do not say put off their confession the state of 
and repentance to their death-bed, but who are in the habit of ^" to defer 
going to confession only once or twice a year, or who put off ^^^*°°' 
confession for a long lime after having committed mortal sin. 
Foolish people, wliat are yoii thinking of?' If any here present 
are in that state, I now speak to ench one of them in particular. 
It is certain that you have to die. This is tlie first truth, 
sinner, and it deserves your serious consideration. It is uncer- 





future con- 
fession Is 

2 1 o The Necessity of the Sacrament of Penance. 

tain when yon will die, whether to-day. or to-morrow, or in a 
year's time. This is the second truth. It is nncertain how you 
will die, whether after a long illness, or suddenly, and this latter 
is often the case. This is the third truth. It is certain that, if 
yon die in the state of mortal sin, you are lost forever. This is 
the fourth truth. x\nd yet yon are not afraid to })ut off to an 
uncertain future time the use of the means that is necessary to 
your salvation? A nobleman was once accused to his sovereign 
of having committed a certain crime. How,'he said (and that 
was all he alleged in his defence) how can any one believe it? 
Your majesty sees that I am always happy and contented; and 
how could I possibly be so, if I were guilty of such a crime? To 
be every moment in danger of death, and, if in mortal sin, of 
eternal damnation, who could be happy or joyful under such 
circumstances? He must, indeed, be a rash and desperate man 
who would expose himself to such a frightful danger. But yon, 
sinner, are guilty of that rashness and presumption I You 
are in such a state, that, if you^were to die, and that may happen 
at any moment, you Avould be lost forever, and yet you put oil 
your confession for a year, or a month. What am I saying? 
Can vou dare to defer it even for a single day? Are vou so in- 
sensible to danger, that you can venture to sleei) soundly to- 
night in your present state? 

I will go to confession, you say, when I grow old. And 
who has told you that you will grow old? There is the great- 
est uncertainty about that. And if you die before you grow 
old, without having confessed and repented of your sins, you 
must go to hell for all eternity. That is quite certain. I will 
go to confession when I have settled this law-suit, oi^ put my 
business affairs into better order; then I will be more at ease, 
and have more time to dispose of. "Who has told you that you 
will live till the end of the law-suit, or to put your business into 
order? Tiiat is uncertain. But if you die without confessing 
and repenting of your sins, you must go to hell for all eternity. 
That is quite certain. 1 will go to confession when I am mar- 
ried; I have no time for it now; my "head is full of other things. 
Who has told you that you will live to be married? That is 
very uncertain. But if you die before confession, and in the 
state of mortal sin, }X)u are lost forever That is certain. I will 
go to confession next Easter, according to my usual custom. 
So much the worse for you that you go to confession only once 
a year. I would not give a farthing for confessions that are 

The Necessity of the Sacrament of Penance. 2 1 1 

made only from one Easter to another. But even supposing you 
make it all right, who has told you that you will live till Easter? 
That is uncertain, while, if you die without confession and 
repentance for your sins before Easter comes, you are lost for- 
ever. That is certain. I will go to confession on the next feast 
of the l^Iessed Virgin, as I ha,ve a special devotion for those 
feasts. That is very good and edifying; but has any one assured 
you that 3^ou will live so long? Meanwhile, if you die before the 
feast-day comes without repentance and confession, you will be 
lost forever. There is no doubt of that. Then t will go to 
confession next Sunday. Quite right; only be sure you keep 
3^our promise. But wait a little. After all, it is uncertain 
whether you will live till next Sunday, or not; and if you die 
meanwhile without confession and repentance, you will losej^our 
soul of a certainty. Not, indeed, that you will be condemned to 
hell because 3'ou have not confessed your sins or repented of them 
before the feast of the Blessed Virgin, or before next Sunday, 
(because I cannot and will not insist on the obligation of confes- 
sing your sins or repenting of them immediately after having 
committed them, although, on account of the danger, it would 
be a most advisable thing to do) but you will be condemned to 
hell on account of the sins that you have committed, and have 
not repented of sincerely before death. But you say, if there is 
any danger meanwhile, I can send for the priest and make my 
confession, or at least I can at once make an act of perfect con- 
trition. How do you know that? AYho has told 3'ou that you 
will not die suddenly? or that your last illness will not at once 
deprive you of speech and understanding? or that the priest will 
reach you in time? But supposing all that goes according to 
your wishes, are you sure that God will give you the grace of 
sincere repentance, and help you to make a good confession, after 
you have offended Him so long without accepting His invitations 
to repent? All these things are very uncertain. Then, again, 
the confession and repentance of those who defer it till their 
death-bed is good perhaps in only one case out of a thousand; 
how do you know that you will be that one? That is again 
most uncertain, nay, improbable. But, no matter in what cir- 
cumstances, if yon die without confession and repentance, you 
are lost. That it quite certain. Will you, then, trust your 
salvation to such a treacherous uncertainty? 

Ah sinne.?! no matter who you are, I beg of you, by way of conclusion 
conclusio\>, inr V^g sake of your eternal salvation, consider the *'^'^^^°^" 



2 1 2 T/ic Necessity of the Sacrament of Penance. 

^nemogo 'f''^® >:^" ''^''^ "^^ ^^^ ^^«^ n^"ch depends on it. There are few 
toconfes- Christians now in liell timong the demons, who had not the 
aionatouce. same intention as you, of confessing tlieir sius at some fntnre 
time; but they did not do so. And they will all burn in the 
flames of hell, forever, because they did not confess and repent 
of their sins, when they could have done so. Therefore say at 
once earnestly from your heart, I will not wait till old age," nor 
till Easter, nor till the next feast of the Blessed M'w^m, nor till 
next Sunday; but this very day. '^ To-dav, if vou shall hear His 
voice, harden not your hearts."' To-day the Lord calls me to 
repentance; now is the time to go to confession; and therefore, 
as soon as the sermon is over, I will try to remember my sins,' 
and free myself from them by a good "confession, that I may 
certainly be freed from the danger of being lost eternally. 
Such is now my firm resolution. Ah my God, I tremble when 
I think of the time that I have spent in sin! ITow have I dared 
to pass a single night in such a dangerous state, and to go to 
sleep knowing that I was Thy enemy, and a rebel to Thy author- 
ity? For if death had then suddenly surprised me, which could 
easily have been the case, I should now be with the demons in 
hell! IIow presumptuous on my part to spend whole months and 
years in such a wretched state, without sincere repentance or 
confession; while many whose sins were less than mine have 
been carried off unprepared and are now in hell! Infinite 
thanks to Thee, God of mercy, for having borne with me so 
patiently, and for having given me such ample time for repent- 
ance! I am now resolved not to wait a single hour longer; for 
the present hour may i)erhaps be my last. \ now repent of, and 
detest with my whole heart all my sins, by which I have offended 
Thee, my good God, who art worthy of infinite love. I will 
now free my conscience from them by a good confession, and as 
long as I live I will be on my guard against offending Thee 
again, and again falling into that miserable state. Have sHll a 
. little patience with me, God of patience, and give me Thy 
powerful grace to carry out this my resolution! For I am de- 
termined to carry it out, and at once. Amen. 
^ Hodle, si vocem ejus audlerltis, nolite obdurare corda vestra.— Ps. xciv. 8. 

^<y»?-g.itfj.fci^''.'.']ry m.BJjjjj wjyiMp^i^ ■ j-j u. '^ 

Confession as an Easy Means of Salvation. 213 



Sacramental confession is an easy means of salvatioii for the 
sinner: 1. when we consider the effects of this sacrament; 2. 
when we consider the nature of this sacrament.— Preac/ze^ on 
the seventh Sunday after Pentecost. 


Attendite a falsis prophetis.— Matt. vii. 15. 
" Beware of false prophets." 

The worst of all false prophets is the devil, says St. John 
Chrysostom. The chief means that he makes use of to ensnare 
souls into sin is to represent to them the sinful object in a 
pleasing light, so that they are easily induced to taste the for- 
bidden pleasure, and to commit sin without further consideration. 
When the sin has been committed, and they wish to free them- 
selves from the tortures of remorse which accompany it, this 
false prophet again comes forward with all kinds of misrepre- 
sentations, in order to make them believe that it is most difficult 
and almost impossible for them to do penance and to make a 
good confession; so that sinners are frightened into deferring 
confession from day to day, and from month to month, and 
meanwhile they go on adding sin to sin, until their consciences 
become hardened in wickedness; they find rest and contentment 
in the state of sin, and finally give up all idea of repentance. 
Ah sinners, do not believe the traitor! He is the father of lies, 
and he seeks nothing but your eternal destruction. Go at once 
to confession, and acknowledge your sins with sorrow of heart. 
The sacrament of penance, as we have seen in the last sermon, 
is a necessary means to obtain the forgiveness of your sins and 
your eternal salvation; and, lest the lying spirit should deceive 
you, I add that it is a very easy means for him who has sinned 
mortally. This I shall show to-day, for the encouragement of 
sinners and to induce them to repent speedily. 

4--t_ .-«\ 


is an easy 
when one 
tbe evil 
from wliloh 
it frees him. 

A sick man 
thinks it 
easy to take 
the bitterest 
medielne. If 
It will re- 
store him to 

214 Confession as an Easy Means of Salvation, 

Plan of Discourse. 

Sacramental confesnon is an easy means for the sinner, when 
we consider the effects of this sacrament. Jhat I shall prove in 
the first part. It is an easy means for the sinner ivhen we con- 
sider the nature of this sacrament, as I shall prove in the second 
part. Therefore, sinners^ no matter hoiv grievous your transgres- 
sions are, take courage at once, and make use of the easy means 
offered you. Such shall be the conclusion. 

To wliicli may you, Mary Mother of Mercy, and yon, holy 
guardian angels, help us by your intercession with Our Lord. 

But how can I say that confession is an easv means for the 
sinner? What could be more difficult to any decent, resi3ectable 
man, than to betray himself, to disclose with the utmost minute- 
ness to another his own wickedness and the hidden deformities 
of his heart? Easy indeed! It might be easy enough for pious 
souls, who go to confession every week, and have nothing to tell 
but half voluntary distractions in prayer, slight fits of bad 
temper, carelessness in speech, a few idle words here and there, 
and similar imperfections. Yes, it may be easy enough for 
them; but for the sinner who has far more grievous matter to 
tell, whose sins are almost countless, who is buried in vice of all 
kinds, who has grown old in wickedness, and has to give an 
account of years of a vicious life, for him to kneel down and go 
over his sins one by one, according to their different natures 
and as they were committed in thought, word, or deed : the very 
thought of it is enough to make one shiver. A more terrible 
rack could not be invented for any malefactor, than the confes- 
sional is in such circumstances for the sinner. Ko; say what 
you will; it is a most difficult mefins to adopt. True, if we 
consider the matter superficially, and. as it is apt to appear at 
first sight, it will seem difficult; but think, sinner, what a 
terrible burden it frees you from; how fearful the evil from 
which it releases you, and you Avill have to acknowledge that 
the difficulty you v/ill find in it is small indeed. 

A sick man does not think it very agreeable to take medicinef 
its bitterness causes him disgust: but when he is suffering from 
a virulent fever, he is ready to take anything that will cure him 
and restore him to health. If a single draught, as bitter as gall, 
could save him from the danger of death, not to speak of its 
restoring him at once to perfect health, oh, he would sa.y, how 
fortunate I am in being cured so easily! What a good thing 

Confe:sion as a7i Easy Means of Salvation. 215 

it is that my doctor is so skilful, that he can cure me at once of 
such a dangerous and painful illness. Other sick people have to 
be tortured by burning and cutting; and I, too, would willingly 
have suffered the same torture, in order to regain my health; 
but now, thanks be to God, I have come through it very easily. 
Mark, my dear brethren, how the sick man looks on the bitter 
and disgusting medicine as an easy and agreeable means of re- 
covery, when he thinks of the danger from which it frees him. 

sinner, in what a dangerous state you are when you are in The sinner 
mortal sin! Hear how one who was a sinner like vou, kina suffers from 
David, cries out to God from the bed of his sins: " Have mercy iiine&s and 
on me, Lord, for I am weak: heal me, Lord, for mv bones ""ffbtto 
are troubled, Jind my soul is troubled exceedingly. Turn to me, medicine 
Lord, and deliver my soul: save me, for Thy mercy's sake, that win 
For there is no one in death that is mindful of Thee; and who ^"'^^'°'- 
shall confess to Thee in hell? " ' There is a description of a la- 
mentable state indeed, and it is thd state in which you are; for 
you are suffering from an illness that will certainly bring you to 
eternal death, unless vou are cured. Do vou not understand 
what it is to be an enemy of the almighty God, to be separated 
from God, your sovereign Good, and to live under God's hatred 
and malediction? Such is your condition at present; j'Ou are a 
bond-slave of the cruel demons who are eagerly awaiting but a 
sign from their Creator to hurry you down to the abyss of hell. 
You have no more claim to the kingdom of heaven; the only re- 
ward you are entitled to is eternal confusion, eternal hunger 
and thirst, eternal stench, and the eternal flames of hell. See 
now if there is anything too difficult for you to do. in order to 
be freed from such a dangerous illness, and, so to speak, from 
such an endless evil. If it were necessary, in order to obtain the 
forgiveness of your sins, that you should give away all you have 
and in future beg your bread from door to door; if it were neces- 
sary for you to fast every day on bread and water, to have but 
one hour's sleep at night on a hard bed, to live in a cave amongst 
wild beasts, to beat your breast with a stone, to tear your flesh 
with iron spurs, and to continue that mode of life till you die: 
great and infinite God, it would certainly be but right that I, 
a miserable worm of the earth, who have dared to offend Thy 

* Miserere mei, Domlne, quonlam Inflrmus sum; sana me, Doraine, quonlam conturhata 
Sunt ossa mea, et animamea turbata est valde. Convertere, Domlne, et eripe animam meam. 
salvum me fac propter misericordiam tuam. Quonlam non est in murte qui meraor sit tui; 
■*n inferno autem, quis confltebitur tibi ?— Ps. vi. 3-6. 

liill1ltttlir....fnr.fT ii-jifflaL^gaG^,;^* 

Much more 
sbould be 
be wlillD}? 
to use such 
means as 

Shown by 

2 r 6 Coufcssicn as a?i Easy Means of Salvation, 

infinite Majesty, should perform all those austerities during my 
whole life, in order to appease Thy anger against me; it certainly 
would not be an excessive satisfaction, nay, it would not be 
enough to compensate for the insults I have oiieredThee. And 
if I ]iad to lead a life of such mortfication till the last day, 'l 
should still look on it as a great favor to be thus enabled to es- 
cape the fire of hell, w^liich is long since due to me, to free my 
Houl from sin, even if I had committed but one, and to regain 
Thy grace and favor and my forfeited right to eternal happi- 
ness. Have not the blind heathens of former times cut them- 
selves most cruelly with knives, and offered their own children 
to be burnt in sacrifice, in order to atone for their transgres- 
sions, and to deprecate the wrath of their dumb idols and the 
devils tliat dwelt in them? 

But, God of goodness and mercy, how easy it is to appease 
Thee! Uow cheaply we can purchase Thy grace and the pardon 
of our sins! How little Thou requirest of us in satisfaction for. 
the insults we have offered Thee! How small is the price we 
have to pay to be saved from hell, and to gain all the happiness 
of Thy kingdom I If I have, as is, alas, the case, offended Thee a 
hundred thousand times, if my sins are more numerous than the 
drops of water in the sea, wdiat is required to regain Thy grace? 
Nothing but to confess my sins with true sorrow to one man; 
and if I do that, my sins disappear at once; the flames of hell 
are extinguished as far as I am concerned; I again become Thy 
friend and beloved child as before, and a lawful heir to the 
kingdom of heaven Thou hast prepared for me. Remember, 
this, sinners; no matter how often and grievously you have 
offended the great God; all that He requires of you, in order to 
forgive you, is that you truly repent of your sins and make a 
good confession. H you had offended a mere mortal like your- 
selves, could you offer him a smaller satisfaction than this? 
Should we not, then, rejoice and thank God, for having supplied 
us with such an easy means of getting rid of such a great evil, 
of throwing off the load of our sins, of escaping hell and gaining 
Leaven ? 

Father Paul Segneri, in his book called " The Christian Man,'* 
relates that, while a peasant was once sleeping in a field, a poi- 
sonous adder crawled down his throat and entered his stomach. 
We can easily imagine the torture that the poor man suffered 
from his unwelcome guest. But what hope was there of reliev- 
ing him? If the adder bit him, there was an end of him at 

Confession as an Easy Means of Salvation. 2 1 7 

once. He was fortunate enough to come across an experienced 
doctor, who suggested a plan to free him from his torment. 
And what was that plan? He made the peasant stand on his 
head, with his feet in the air, while he held a bowl of milk be- 
fore his open mouth. The plan succeeded admirably; the adder, 
attracted by the milk, came out through the man's throat and 
fell into the bowl. If that story is true, the means by which the 
man was freed from his misery, was easy enough. A similar 
means, it seems to me, has been provided by the heavenly Phy- 
sician, the good God, to save the sinner from eternal death, for 
in His mercy He has instituted the sacrament of penance for 
that purpose. It is far too mild a comparison to say that mor. 
tal sin is like a poisonous serpent; yet this is the simile the Holy 
Ghost Himself uses by the Wise Ecclesiasticus, when he warns 
us all to " flee from sin as from the face of a serpent."' But, 
unfortunately, how often does it not happen that men daily 
swallow down these poisonous adders and serpents, not by 
chance, or through misfortune, but in their waking moments, 
well knowing what they do, with the full consent of their will, 
nay, with joy and pleasure, as if they were swallowing a most 
agreeable food or drink; and they fill themselves therewith to 
repletion! But how these serpents bite when the pleasure of sin 
is passed away, they can speak of who have ever been in the 
unhappy state of sin. And if the poisonous reptile remains 
quiet in the conscience, there is no hope for the life of the soul. 
What is to be done? What medicine is to be used against the 
monster of sin? The heavenly Physician has provided us with a 
most easy and agreeable one in the sacrament of penance. The 
poor sinner has nothing to do but to stand on his head, that is 
to humble himself, to open his mouth, confess his sin, and thus 
easily and gently, without doing himself the least harm, get rid 
of the poisonous adder he has swallowed. Could the almighty 
God have invented an easier means of curing the sinner and sav- 
ing him from the danger of eternal death? 

Again, a medicine is called easy when, although it is hitter, confession 
yet it is sure to bring back health. If doctors only knew where to ^ ^° ®^Y 

•^ o -1 ^ means, also, 

find such medicines, there would not be so many poor, sick people because it 
confined to their beds for so long; but how often the doctors are 7^" ^"'^'y 

° ' . heal the 

obliged to consult and to study for days and days, before they maladies of 
are able to discover the nature of the illness they are called on thesoui. 
to cure? How many bitter draughts must not the patient drink, 

* Quasi a facie colubri f uge peccata.— Ecclus. xxi. 2. 

VniT'rupf r - ^_\^ \ 

^-^^. ^rAS'^S?"-^ >j^^j^ 

2i8 Confession as an Easy Means of Salvation. 

Confession as an Easy Means of Salvation. 2 1 9 

which, instead of giving him relief, only make him worse? And 
even when they have discovered the proper medicine, what a 
long time it takes hefore the cure is finally effected, and the 
sick man completely restored to health? Consider the example 
of the leper in the Gospel of St. Matthew. '' Lord," he sighed, 
" if Thou wilt. Thou canst make me clean." ^ And what did our 
compassionate Lord do? '^ And Jesus, stretching forth His hand, 
touched him, saying: I will. Be thou made clean."" Hardly 
had He spoken these words, when the man's illness disappeared 
at once: ** And forthwith his leprosy was cleansed."" If we had 
been present on that occasion, my dear brethren, and had seen 
that sudden cure, what would we have thought of it? Would 
we not have cried out in astonishment, a miracle, a miracle? 
Blessed be Thy goodness, God of mercy; for Thou w^orkest 
a similar miracle every day for the salvation of souls. Am I 
suffering from a spiritual leprosy, so that I am sick to death? 
Have I been in that woeful state for thirty, forty, or more years? 
Thou hast prepared for me in the sacrament of penance a medi- 
cine that will cure me perfectly the first time I take it? The 
moment I confess my sins, and hear the words of absolution, the 
cure is completed; forthwith my leprosy is cleansed. From being 
sick unto death, I lu^^e become fully restored to health, as if 
nothing had ever been the matter with me; from being Thy 
hated enemy, I have become Thy just and holy friend, and Thou 
assurest me that Thou wilt never for all eternity remember my 
sins again. And is that th6 means that I look on as too hard 
and disagreeable? 
Because it Fiuallv, in a dangerous illness, one has not alwavs a doctor at 

is always at . , tt • , i. i jt j. i- " t ■> , , 

hand. hand. He is sent for two, three, four times, and is not at 
home; frequently he cannot come because he is engaged else- 
where; and when he does come, he prescribes a costly medicine, 
that entails a great deal of expense; a long time is required to 
prepare it at the apothecary's, etc. All these circumstances 
increase the difficulty of the cure. You are helped' much easier 
and quicker, sinner, when you are suffering from a spiritual 
malady. All you have to do is to come and acknowledge your 
sins in confession, and you are cured. The medicine does not 
cost you a farthing; you get absolution for nothing; no more 
time is required than is necessary for the priest to pronounce 
the sacramental words; and nearly everywhere you go, you havo 

' Domlne, si vis. potes me mundare.—Matt. vlil. 2. 

' Et extendens Jesus mannm, tetijjit eum. dicens: Volo. Mundare.—Ibid. 8. 

3 Et coDfestlm mundata est Jepra ejus.— Ibid. 

all these opportunities at hand. Pitiful was the state of the 
paralytic man at the pool in Jerusalem; he was lying there for 
thirty-eight years, and had no one, on account of the great 
crowd of sick people that thronged the place, to put him into 
the water; therefore he said to Our Lord: "Sir, I have no. 
man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pond; for 
whilst I am coming, another goeth down before me." ' This 
pond was a figure of our sacrament of penance. Sinners, can 
you, too, complain that you have no man to whom you may 
confess your sins? no man who can absolve you from them? In 
truth, Christ could have given that power to no one but His 
vicar on earth, or at most to only one priest in every principal 
city of the world, so that a long Journey would be necessary in 
order to get forgiveness of our sins. But Our Lord did not 
confine His mercy within such narrow limits. Every Catholic 
town throughout the world is full of approved priests, who can, 
and, if we go properly to work, will help us in this matter. 

*•' I have no man" to help me. Such might be the complaint Especially 
of those poor Catholics who have to live amongst infidels, or *" C'^**^^"^ 


Turks, or heretics, and who, through want of a priest, have no 
opportunity of confessing their sins for a whole year. But j'ou, 
sinner, who are living in a Catholic country, have you any 
reason to make a complaint of that kind? You are living 
amongst men who can and will heal you, when and as often as 
you please; there are priests enough about yon; our churches and 
confessionals are open to you morning and evening, that you 
may enter them whenever it suits you; we invite you, We call 
out to you to come; come back, we say, and be reconciled to 
God; no one will be turned away. Here the subject and the 
superior are on the same footing; the servant is the same as his 
master; the beggar, as the rich man; the stranger, as the well- 
known friend; here all arealike. If 3"ou send for us, we are 
ready to go and hear your confession :. if you come to us, we 
await von with readiness; nor do we demand anv other reward, 
but the consolation of having done our duty, purified your soul 
from sin, saved you from the slavery of the devil, and made you 
a child of God. But alas, there is many a confessor who with 
just reason might exclaim of many a sinner, in the words of the 
paralytic man, " I have no man" who is •^villing to be helped 
and healed by me! I sit in the confessional and wait anxiously 

* Domlne, hominem non habeo, ut, cum turbata f uerit aqua, mittat me In piscinam; dum 
venio enim ego, alius ante me descendit — John v. 7. 


2 20 Confession as an Easy Means of Salvation. 

for those who are grown old in sin, to heal them and save them 
from hell, but they do not come; tliey are afraid to put in an 
appearance, and that frequently because they exaggerate the 
difficulty of the means appointed for their cure, and so despair 
of it. But is that a difficult remedy which heals so quickly and 
so surely? which costs so little, and is ready at any moment? 
and, most of all, which heals such a dangerous and grievous 
illness? Do you, I sa}', look on that means as too difficult? 
Then, if so, you do not know the misery of the state in which 
you are; you do not understand what it is to be saved from 
eternal flames; nor do you attach any importance to your sal- 
vation. But let us consider the matter more closely. In what 
does the imaginary great difficulty consist? I have proved that 
it is easy for one who has sinned grievously to receive the sacra- 
ment of penance when we look at its eifects; for it frees the 
sinner from an immense evil quickly, surely, and easily, and 
the opportunity of receiving it is always at hand. And I add 
now that the sacrament of penance is an easy means when 
we consider what it is in itself, in its own nature, as I shall 
show in the 

Second Part. 
Everything ^y^at is required on the sinner's part to receive the sacrament 

necessary • j.i • . • i. 

for the sac- ^' penance IS the examination of conscience, a true sorrow for 
ramentof sin, a firm purpose of amendment, the confession of his sins. 
penance IS ^^^^i ^|^g fulfilment of the penance enjoined him. That is all. 
And what terrible difficulty is there about it? The examination 
of conscience? What is easier than for me to remember what I 
have been doing for many years against God and His law? I 
know that there are some anxious souls who torment themselves 
about this examination; but they give themselves much more 
trouble than they need about it; I will speak on this matter on a 
future occasion. Perhaps the sorrow for past sin, or the pur- 
pose of amendment, is the difficulty? But these things are in the 
power of my own free will, with the help of God's grace, which is 
never wanting to me, if I earnestly desire it from the good God. 
If I am only sincere about changing my sinful life, there is 
nothing easier than to repent of and detest that by which I 
know I have offended so good a God, and deserved hell fire. In 
the Old Law, if a sinner wished to obtain forgiveness, he had 
to excite a perfect sorrow through the motive of a perfect love 
of God; but now, in the sacrament of penance, the good God is 

Confession as an. Easy Means of Salvation. 221 

siitisfied with an imperfect sorrow, which requires far less 
trouble than the first, so that the Lord receives His rebellious 
children back again into His favor, even when they return to 
Him through love of their own interest, that is, through fear of 
eternal punishment and hope of an eternal reward. Is the 
difficulty perhaps in the performance of the penance enjoined? 
But how could that be? It is the practice of most confessors 
nowadays, and that, too, with good reason, to impose such slight 
penances, that, when compared with the sins for which they 
are imposed, they hardly deserve the name of penance. 

So it seems, then, that the whole of the terrible difficulty con- 
sists in the confession of one's sins? Yes, this it is which makes 
many a one shudder, fills him with fear and anguish, so that he 
can hardly articulate, while he trembles in every limb of his 
body, especially when he has very shameful or disgraceful sins to 
confess. This it is that people fear, as if it were a burning fur- 
nace, through which they had to go to a painful death. But 
let us consider the matter reasonably, and we shall see that the 
cause of this anxiety is merely imaginary, and, therefore, that the 
difficulty is not a real one, and, at all events, is not half so terrible 
as people think. For, when I am going to confession, even if I 
have the most horrible sins to tell, who is to be mv accuser? I 
myself, and no one else. Who is he to whom I have to make my 
accusation? A man like myself. What sort of a sentence have 
I to expect? If I do my part all right, none but a favorable one, 
by which I shall be justified and declared innocent. Ought not 
this help to console me, and to lessen the shame I imagine I 
must feel? 

For, in the first place, what could be more advantageous or 
consoling for me, than that I myself should be my own accuser? 
If I had to listen to others making charges against me, and dis- 
closing all my disgraceful actions to a judge in the presence of 
others; then, indeed, I should have cause to blush for shame; for 
my accusers might exaggerate my guilt through malice, hatred, 
envy, or vindictiveness. But as it is, I am my own accuser, 
and that, too, of my own free will, through love of God and 
the desire of saving my soul. I am the only one to say a 
word against myself, and implicit confidence must be placed 
in what I say, nor shall I be under any necessity of appealing 
to any one else. There are no witnesses required, no counsel- 
lors; the whole affair is conducted between me and my judge, 
and the examination and sentence are kept a profound secret. 

The great- 
est difficulty 
is to declare 
one's sins. 

But this is. 
easy, be- 
cause the 
sinner is 
his own 

' :4g4t!:!ijii i H ^<fw»^iB^yf)Sr 



Because the 
ju6ge is a 
man like 

To whom 
he has to 
confess his 
sins but 
once, and 
that under 
strict se- 

222 Confession as an Easy Means of Salvation* 

so that--fro one can have the least knowledge concerning them. 

Again, who is the judge to whom I must acknowledge my sins? 
He is a poor mortal like myself. If God were to send an angel, 
or a seraph down from heaven, to hear my confession, in visible 
shape, then, indeed, I might have reason to feel anxious and 
afraid; because the angel would not have a frail nature like me, 
nor flesh like me, nor would he be subject to sin and passion like 
me, nor would he ever have experienced the weaknesses, and the 
allurements and temptations to sin which assail me; and there- 
fore he could not have such great pity for me. But the good 
God has appointed as my judge one who .is in all respects like 
myself, who has the same nature, tlie same inclinations, miseries, 
"weaknesses, and is exposed to the same temptations that assail 
me, who can sin as I do, and perhaps has committed more nu- 
merous and grievous sins than I have; so that he can and must 
have compassion on my frailty. Hence St. Paul says, by way of 
consolation, to all sinners: *' Every high-priest taken from among 
men is ordained for men in the things that appertain to God . . . 
who can have compassion on them that are ignorant and that err: 
because he himself- also is compassed with infirmity." * Besides 
(so each of you may say to himself), I can choose wdiom I will 
among those who are empowered to act as my judges; I can se- 
lect one who does not know and has never seen me; I am not 
obliged to tell him my name; I can go to him early in the morn- 
ing or late in the evening, so that he cannot see me; and, if I 
■wish, I can cover my face. 

To this judge I must declare the sins I have committed, and 
that but once during my whole life; for when I have once con- 
fessed them properly, I shall never be obliged to confess them 
again. In addition to that, the good God has taken such great 
care of my ^ood name, that He has bound this judge under pain 
of hell fire to the strictest secrecy, so tliat in no imaginable cir- 
cumstances, not even to save his life, nor to ensure the hajipiness 
and prosperity of the whole world, to save many thousand souls 
from eternal damnation, can that judge ever reveal a single sin 
he hears from me, either by word or sign, to others; and not 
only that, but he is not allowed to speak of it to myself, unless 
he has first asked and obtained my permission to speak with me 
outside of confession, after he has given me absolution, of what 

* Omnis namque pontifex ex hominibus assumptus pro hominibus constitultur In lis, 

qnsB sunt ad Deum qui condolere possit lis qui ij^norant et erraut : quoniam et 

Ipse clrcumdatus est inflnnif ate.— Hebr. v. 1, 2. 

Confession as an Easy Means of Salvation. 223 

I have told him. So that my sin is better hidden with him, than 
it is with myself; for I might make it known to others, through 
talkativeness, or in confidence, or in order to humble myself, 
whilst my confessor dare not attempt such a thing. My con- 
science may often reproach me with the sins I have committed; 
my confessor can never do so. This is an undoubted fact, my 
dear brethren, and there is neither law, nor dispensation, nor 
power in the whole world, which can ever free a confessor from 
this obligation of silence. How could the good God have made 
confession easier or more consoling? 

Finally, he who is appointed by God as my judge holds the secausehis 
place of God, not to condemn, but to absolve me; not to reject, absolution 
but to receive me; and when I have finished my accusation, and andjustm- 
am otherwise in the proper dispositions, the sentence that I have *^'*°°' 
a right to is my justification, and it is passed in these words : 
*'I absolve thee; " I declare thee free from all thy sins; that is 
to say, I remit all the debt you have contracted with God; I 
loose the chains that bound you in the slavery of the devil; I 
open the dungeon in which you were imprisoned, and allow you 
to go forth free; I blot out your name from the book of eternal 
death, and write it in the book of eternal life; you may now go in 
peace, for I declare you innocent and holy; and I acknowledge 
you as a beloved friend and child of God, and as a lawful heir 
of the kingdom of heaven. All this is comprised in my sen- 
tence, " I absolve Thee.'^ Therefore I must be convincel that 
the sacrament of penance is not, as some imagine, a hard and 
difficult, but rather an easy and most consoling way of escaping 
eternal damnation, of gaining the happiness of heaven. 

Oh! if Jill malefactors could thus easily satisfy human justice, Malefactors 
if they had nothing more difficult to do than the sinner whof*'^'*^^ 

, , . , far more 

gets pardon in the sacrament of penance, w^ould any -of them severely by 
have reason to complain of undue severity ? But it is quite I'""**" 
different with them. For instance, a man is suspected of mur- ■'"^^^^^' 
der; he is arrested at once, dragged through the public streets 
in presence of all, and thrown into prison. There he has to re- 
main sometimes for months, without comfort or consolation, 
until sufficient evidence regarding the crime has been collected; 
and at last, when he is almost worn out by his confinement, he 
is brought to trial. If he persists in denying the crime, he has 
to suffer a torture that is often more painful than death itself; if 
he confesses his guilt at once, he is again thrown into prison, 
heavily ironed, and has nothing but the sword or the wheel to 


I I Mlft^A'f^itfl-' 


the sinner 
cannot com- 
plain of the 
diflBculty of 

And shoDld 
at once 
make use 
of such an 
easy means, 
and return 
to so good 
a God. 

224 Confessioji as an Easy Means of Salvation, 

expect as the reward of his confession. So severe is human 
justice with evil doers. And now, sinner, compare these two, 
the manner in which God acts towards the sinner in the sacrament 
of penance, and tliat in which the justice of men acts towards 
malefactors, and then, if you can, you may complain of the sev- 
erity and difficulty of the sacrament of penance. If the mur- 
derer, after his arrest, had nothing else to do but to declare his 
guilt to a respectable man in strict secrecy, in order to be set at 
liberty, do you think he would be likely to make a great dif- 
ficulty about it? On the contrary, he would face his judge joy- 
fully, and at once make the necessary confession, before the 
whole town, if required. 

And Thou, great Monarch of heaven and earth, requirest 
from the malefactor who has dared to offend Thee twenty, fifty, 
a hundred, a thousand times, and to put to death Thy beloved Son, 
each time, as far as in him lav; whom Thou hast at anv moment 

in Thv hands, and canst condemn to hell at once after he has 


sinned; from him, I sa}'. Thou requirest nothing but that he 
should confess his sins to a man like himself, who holds Thy 
place, and who may be utterly unknown to him, and confess 
them with sorrow, under a pledge of the strictest secrecy! And 
still he complains that Thou art too severe with him, and is 
frightened by the difficulty; he bears about the heavy burden of 
his sins from year to year, from one Easter to the other; or, at 
all events, he does not make his confession honestl}^ Terrified by 
an imaginary difficulty, he conceals, through shame, a certain se- 
cret sin, and adds to his guilt and to the eternal punishment 
that awaits it by sacrilegious confessions and Communions. 
AVhat could be more reckless or foolish than such conduct? 

Come sinners, I conclude, in the words of St. Paul to the 
Hebrews, '*Let us go therefore with confidence to the throne 
of grace; that we may obtain mercy, and find grace; ^' ' that is, let 
us approach the sacred tribunal of penance, and, without shame 
or fear, but with penitent hearts, confess our sins candidly. Let 
us imitate that notorious murderer in Spain. Augustus had 
published a reward of ten thousand crowns to him who should 
take the murderer living or dead. When Caracota (as the mur- 
derer was called) heard of this, he began to think of some plan 
of escaping the pursuit of such a powerful enemy. What did 
he do? He disguised himself, went to the emperor and humbly 

» Adeamus ergo cum flducla ad thronum gratiee, ut mlsericordlam consequamur, et 
gratiam inveniamus.— Heb. It. 16. 

Confession as an Easy Means of Salvation, 225 

acknowledged all his crimes, trusting in his sovereign's goodness 
and in his own humble confession to obtain pardon. Nor was 
he disappointed, for the emperor (not only forgave him, but 
also richly rewarded him. sinner, what a terrible punish- 
ment has been decreed and published against you by the al- 
mighty God, from whose hands it is impossible to escape I All 
creatures are in readiness and await only a word from their 
Creator, to deliver you up to His vengeance, and if you are once 
arrested and brought before His judgment seat, there is no hope 
of your escaping the sentence of eternal condemnation. There- 
fore, while you still have time, you should fly to the throne of 
His mercy, and humbly confess your guilt, and promise amend- 
ment with sincerity, and you will find that you have to deal 
with a far more merciful Judge, than Augustus was towards the 
murderer. Do not complain that this voluntary confession is 
too hard for you. When tlie Prophet Eliseus told Naaman to 
go and wash seven times in the Jordan, in order to be cured of 
his leprosy, the latter was dissatisfied with the remedy proposed 
to him. But his servants said to him: " Father, if tlie prophet 
had bid thee to do some great thing, surely thou wouldst have 
done it; how much rather what he now hath said to thee: Wash 
and thou shalt be. clean?"* Let you and me, sinner, take 
those words to ourselves! If the Lord God had required of us 
to suffer the torments of hell till the last day, in order to obtain 
forgiveness of our sins, and to escape eternal fire, certainly we 
should submit to the condition with joy; much more, then, 
should we be ready to avail ourselves of the sacrament of pen- 
ance, that easy means that He has prescribed for us, saying to 
us, go, and declare your sins only once to the priest, and they 
will all be forgiven you? For my part, Lord, I can only 
stand amazed at Thy incomprehensible goodness and mercy, in 
pardoning so easily a miserable worm of the earth like me, who 
have so often and grievously offended Thee! No man on earth, 
if I had insulted him, would be willing to make friends with me 
again on such easy terms. And on account of this goodness of 
Thine, I now, with a heart full of sorrow and repentance, hate 
and detest all my sins; I submit to Thy sweet yoke; I will go and 
confess my sins candidly, as they are on my conscience, and for 
the remainder of my life I will love and praise above all things 
the Lord who has freed me by such an easy means from such a 

- Pater, etsi rem {?randem dlxisset tibi propbeta, certe facere debueras ; quanto maffis 
quia nunc dixit tibi : lavare, et muadaberis ?— IV. Kings v. 13. 



226 The Efficacy of the Sacrame;it 0/ Penance. 

grievous evil, and has again received me into Ilis friendshin: 
and that I will do with full confidence that I shall one day love 
and bless Him forever in heaven. Amen. 




1. In the sacrament of penance the sinner receives back at 
once all he had lost by sin. 2. He receives more than he had 
lost, and becomes spiritually richer, than he ever was in the state 
of umocQxvcQ.— -Preached on the eiglh{h Sunday after Pentecost. 


Fodere non valeo, mendicare erubesco. Scio quid faciam. — 
Luke XV i. 3, 4. 

" To dig I am not able, to beg I am ashamed. I know what 
I will do." 


This unjust steward represents the sinner who by mortal sin 
is guilty of unfaithfulness to his Lord and his God, and squan- 
ders all the precious treasures and goods of his soul, so that he is 
reduced to the extremity of spiritual poverty, and can neither dig 
nor beg ; that is, he cannot do aiiything meritorious of eternal 
life, either by his prayers and good works, or by the trials and 
crosses he has to suffer while in the state of sin, as I have else- 
where explained. Oh ! if he were only so provident as that 
steward, who found a means of gaining friends for himself to 
whom he might apply for help in his poverty ; and for that ho 
was praised by his master, inasmuch as he had acted wiselv. 
But many sinners will say, " What shall I do," in order to make 
good the losses I have sustained ? I will give you the best pos- 
sible advice; go like the steward, and call together your Master's 
debtors; that is, recall to mind all the sins you have committed, 
acknowledge them penitently in the sacred tribunal, and thus 
you will make good your losses; nay, you will become richer 
than you were before, and you will gain credit and praise with 
the almighty God for having acted wisely, as I shall show 

The Efficacy of the Sacrament of Penaiice. 227 

to-day, in order to supply sinners with an additional motive 
for speedy repentance. Tlie sacrament of penance is a necessary 
means for sinners; it is also a very easy means, as we have 
already seen ; and it is, moreover, a most advantageous, efficacious 
means. Why ? Because 

Plan of Discourse. 
In the sacrament of penance the sinner receives haclc at once all 
he had lost hy sin, as I shall shoiv in the first part. In the 
sacrament of penance he receives more than he had before, and 
becomes spiritually richer than ever he was in the state of inno- 
cence. That I shall prove in the second part. Therefore, sinner, 
delay no longer ; decide at once, like the steiuard, and say, "/ 
hi02V what I icill do ; " I will immediately confess my sins. 

merciful God ! give to all Thy grace that they may arrive 
at this conclusion ; we ask it of Thee humbly, through the inter- 
cession of Mary and of the holy guardian angels. 

1 have said on another occasion that we should not deplore too « is true 

, . . , 111 that by con- 

much the loss of a thing that cannot be recovered or replaced; fession 

for our sorrow in that case would be unavailing and useless, cannot 


For instance, the death of a dear friend is a sorrowful occur- a^Vit^^" 
ence ; but why should I give way to immoderate grief on account never had 
of it ? Can I bring back my departed friend, even if I wept ^^^^' 
tears of blood for him ? Therefore, in such a case, prudence 
dictates to me that I should submit humbly to the decrees of 
Providence. It is done, and there is an end of it. Lord, may 
Thy holy will be done in all things ! In the same Avay one 
might say to me, what is the use of my being sorry for my sins ? 
Will all my contrition make them as if they had not been com- 
mitted? There they are, and there they must remain. True; 
if I were to weep the ocean full of tears, I could not get rid of 
the fact that I have sinned. For all eternity it must remain true 
that I have despised my Sovereign God, and grievously offended 
Him. For all eternity Adam must acknowledge that he has 
transgressed the divine command, and brought misery on all his 
descendants; for all eternity Peter must acknowledge that he 
denied his Master most disgracefully three times; and Magdalene 
must confess that she was the greatest sinner of the place in 
which she lived. Yes, my dear brethren, in so far neither sorrow, 
nor resolution, nor confession, nor penance is of any good. But 
it is one thing to make a sin as if it never had been committed, 
and another, to make good the loss and damage caused by it. A 



Yet we can 
recover all 
we have 


22S The Efficacy of the Sacrament of Penance, 

woman cannot recall her deceased son or hnsband to life by 
weeping for him; but if thereby she is enabled to bear her sor- 
row and desolation better, or to make good the loss she has 
suffered, then, indeed, she would have every right to weep as 
much as she likes. 

And that is what the sinner can effect by confessing his sins 
with i^roper sorrow; for thereby he can recover what he has 
lost by sin. lost, and that as completely and quickly as if he had never 
sinned. Ah sinners, think of what a fearful loss you suffer, in 
that nnhappy moment wlien you commit a mortal sin, even if 
it is only in thought; and then you will have some idea of the 
great benefit to be derived from the sacrament of penance! Yoii 
have lost, as far as in you lies, for all eternity, the supreme and 
infinite Good, God himself, and His favor and friendship; you 
have lost, and for all eternity, the li fie of your immortal soul; 
you have lost, and for ail eternity, all the infused supernatural 
virtues and ornaments of your soul, with the exception of the 
virtues of faith and hope, unless 3'ou have sinned grievously 
against those virtues. You have lost, and for all eternity, the 
merits you had heaped np during your life by your good works 
^ V. and by the trials you bore; you have lost, and for all eternity, all 
right to the heavenly joys that were prepared for you; you have 
lost, and for all eternity, the rest, repose, and peace of your 
conscience. I will say nothing more now of the endless evil 
in which you have deliberately involved yourself. From this 
evil, as we have seen already, 3^ou can be freed, and can com- 
pletely recover all you have lost, the very moment you make a 
good confession and receive sacramental absolution from the 
priest who sits in the sacred tribunal in the place of God. 

And first of all, you have again as your loving friend the 

_ God whom you had lost, and who, while you were in the un- 

he had lost, happy state of sin, not merely refused to recognize you, but 
even pursued you with the bitterest hatred, and looked on you 
with disgust; and He loves you now as much, and is as favorable 
to you, as if you had preserved your baptismal innocence and 
had never done anything to offend Him. *^He will turn again," 
says the Lord by the prophet Micheas, " and have mercy on us: 
He will pnt away our iniquities, and He will cast all our sins into 
the bottom of the sea." * A stone that is thrown into the 
depths of the sea is never seen again; and so, when sins, no 

» Revertetur et miserebitur nostri : deponet iniquitates nostras, et projiclet In profundum 
maris omnia peccata nostra.— Mich, vii. 19. 

The sinner 
God, •whom 

yy - 

The Efficacy of the Sacratneiit of Penajice. 229 

matter how grievous they are, are once washed away in the 
precious Blood of Jesus Christ, they are buried and sunk for- 
ever out of the sight of God, as if they had never been com- 
m-itted. I^ay, as a proof of His having completely forgiven 
them, the good God will not allow them to remain any longer 
in His memory. Hear the consoling words He speaks by the 
Prophet Ezechiel: '^ But if the wicked do penance for all his 
sins, which he hath committed . . . living he shall live, and shall 
not die. I will not remember all his iniquities that he hath 

ne. " ' But how can that be? Can the Almiglity forgot what 
He once has known, or can His knowledge be changed? St. 
Tliomas answers this question. Tliere is one kind of forgetful- 
ness, he says, by which one is unable to recall what he^'knew 
before, and this cannot be in God, who of necessity must know 
all things from eternity to eternity by an unchangeable knowl- 
edge. There is another kind of forgetf ulness by which one 
gives no outward sign of what he knows, and acts as if it 
were altogether unknown to him; and it is in this sense that God 
is said to forget the sins of those who truly repent. » As far as 
their guilt is concerned, they are no longer remembered against 
the sinner; God shows him as much love and favor as if he 
had never been guilty of the least transgression; and if he who 
has been forgiven in the sacrament of penance should be so 
ungrateful as to fall again into the same mortal sins, those that 
he has got rid of by a good confession would never be held up 
against him, as far as their guilt is concerned;' nay, if he is lost 
forever on account of the new sins he has committed, the 
former ones, for which he obtained forgiveness, would not be 
taken account of in his punishment. They are forgotten, and 
will remain so forever. And therefore the sinner is just as high 
in the favor and friendship of God, as if he had never committed 
a single mortal sin. Christians, what a consolation for me 
and for all those Avho have sinned grievously! 

In the second place, you were bearing about in your body, The sanc- 
while in the state of sin, a soul that was disgusting and abom^ '^^f that 
nable in the sight of God, according to His words to the Prophet ^^tT\oT^ 
Ezechiel, "The soul that sinneth, the same shall die."' rj^^j^^ and infused 
beautiful life, that consists in sanctifying grace, is given back r^S'^ 

J Si autem implus egerit poenitentiam ab omnibus peccatis suls, quae operatus est , . . 
ma vivet et non morietur. Omnium iniquit^tum ejus, quas operatus est, non recoidabor— 
Ezech. xviil. 21-22. 

2 Et SIC Deus diciturobliviscl peccata eorum qui vere poenitent -St. Thorn", in c. 16 Apoc. 
Anlma, quae peccaverit, ipsa morietur — Ezech. xvili. 4. 


The Efficacy of the Sacrament of Penance. 

The Efficacy of the Sacrament of Penance. 

to you when you have received absolution in the sacrament of 
penance; and you are again clothed with the precious garment, 
which compels God to love you when He sees it on your soul, 
and which you must necessarily take with you into heaven, if 
you die in it. AVe have a figure of this in the Prodigal Son. 
When he returned to his father, full of repentance, and acknowl- 
edged his fault, " Father, I have sinned against heaven and 
before thee," the father cried out at once, full of joy, ** Bring 
forth quickly the first robe, and put it on him, and put a ring 
on his hand, and shoes on his feet ... let us eat and make 
merry, because this my son wa^ dead, and is come to life again; 
was lost and is found."' By the ring on the hand and the 
shoes on the feet, we are to understand the other ornament of 
the soul, that is, the different supernatural virtues that were 
infused in baptism, which follow and wait, like courtiers, on 
sanctifying grace as on their queen; these, too, are all restored 
to you in the sacrament of penance. 
And all the Thirdly, you must know that all the merits of the good works 
previously J^^ performed while in the state of grace are completely lost 
Rained. the moment you commit one mortal sin; and while you are in 
the state of sin, they are of no more use to you than a defaced 
coin that has no value any longer; so that, if you were to die in 
tliat unhappy state, you would not receive the least reward for 
all your good works, even if you had surpassed in holiness the 
Blessed Virgin herself. The sacrament of penance is that most 
fortunate transaction by which you can make good all those 
immense losses, and restore your former good works and merits 
to life again, so that you are just as rich in merits as you were 
before you committed a single mortal sin, and those merits, even 
down to the value of one '* Our Father, '^ will all be written down 
to your credit and to your eternal glory. And this is in accord- 
ance with the general teaching of theologians, and is partly 
founded on the promise made by God to the Prophet Joel. 
» After the Lord had said: '*Be converted to me with all your 
heart,"" He adds: ''And I Avill restore to you the years 
which the locust and the bruchus, and the mildew, and the 
palmer-worm hath eaten;"' that is, I will restore to those 
who do penance all the fruits they collected while in the state of 

» Pater, peccavl In ocelnm, et coram te. . . Cito proferte stolam primam, et indulte Ilium, 
et date annulum in manumeius,etcalceainenta in pedes ejus. . . raanducemus et epulemur, 
quia hie Alius mens mortuus erat, et revixit; periei at et Inventus est —Luke. xv. 31-24. 

" Convertiralni ad me in toto corde vestro.— Joel. 11. VI. 

3 Et reddam vobis annos, quos comedlt locusta, bruchus, et rubigo, et eruca.— Ibid. 25. 


grace, and which were eaten away by sin. In the same way, too, 
we must understand the words of the Prophet Jeremias, " Con- 
vert us, Lord, to Thee, and we shall be converted; renew 
our days as from the beginning; " ' that is, the good we have 
done before we sinned shall be ours again, and all our former 
good days shall be reckoned to our credit." 

Finally, the sacrament of penance brings back to us the peace 
of mind and repose of conscience we had lost. Certain and in- 
fallible is the truth that the Holy Ghost has spoken by the Wise 
Ecclesiasticus: "A wicked heart shall be laden with sorrows."'' 
Nor can it be otherwise. An honest man who has got into debt 
and is pressed by his creditors on all sides, but has not the means 
of paying them, must be necessarily troubled by many painful 
and uneasy thoughts; he has no rest, either day or night, and is 
always thinking of his debts; ah, he says to himself, would that 
I were able to pay off everything! Hardly does he dare to ven- 
ture out into the street, lest he should meet one of his creditors. 
With good reason Avas it once said of a man who was deeply in 
debt, I should like to see the pillow on which that man can sleep 
at night; meaning thereby that it was impossible for such a one 
to enjoy his night's rest. But if some good fortune falls to his 
lot, if, for instance, he inherits a large sum that enables him to 
pay all his debts; what profound peace of heart he at once en- 
joys I The sick man who is suffering from an internal abscesa 
can hardly bear the pain it causes him; every position he assumes 
causes him new torture; nor can any medicine help him until 
the abscess breaks, and he is freed from it altogether; then it 
seems to him that he has received a new life. What must be the 
thoughts of a malefactor w^ho is lying in prison waiting for sen- 
tence of death to be passed on him? His imagination during the 
day, and, if he can sleep at all, his dreams during the night, are 
employed about nothing but gibbets and wheels, as if he Avere 
already suffering the tortures of a disgraceful death; if lie hears 
the bolt stirring on the door of his prison, a cold sweat breaks 
out all over him; now, he thinks, they are coming to bring me 
to the gallows. I once saw a man who was told that he had to 
die. How the poor wretch raved and stormed! He seemed to me 
like a wild animal shut up in a room, clawing and leaping about 
the walls and windows trying to get out; he' tore at his chains, 

* Converte uos, Domine, ad te, et convertemur: innova dies nostros, sicut a principle- 
Lament, v. 21. 

' Cor nequam gravabitur In doloribus.— Ecclus. iii. 29. 

The tor- 
ment of a 
bad con- 
shown by 

r""' -'^ll'^'''lj'^- 

n-lil(jifi"|»<iil»fir't , ,.^-^_, 

irMaiiiii«iirr<i-iT-- ■ i 



,-w~-^-n,-P:->w^viiiw<JHAijp *y^'; - 

The sinner 
had lost all 
peace of 

232 T/ie Efficacy of the Sacrament of Penance, 

in the hope of breaking tliem; Le sprang up from the ground 
as if lie would try to leap through the ceiling, and threw himself 
on the floor as if he wished to burrow through the stones and 
hide himself under them. What joy would not that poor wretch 
have felt, my dear brethren, if I had freed him from his chains, 
and opened the door of his prison, so that he might go free? 
But how much greater would not his joy have been, if I could 
have told him that his life was spared by his sovereign, and that 
he was at full liberty to go wherever he pleased? 

Sinner, if you consider the matter in the proper light, you have 
reason to experience a much greatei' joy when you have made a 
conscience, good confession and have been absolved from your sins. While 
you were in the state of sin, you were a debtor to the almighty 
God, who had you completely in His power, and you owed Him 
as many millions as you had committed sins; for when you pray 
to the Lord, you say, '* Forgive us our trespasses," or our debts. 
Nor had you a farthing in your possession to pay them; your own 
conscience was the importunate creditor, that kept constantly 
crying in your ear, *' Pay what thou owest." How have you 
been able to find anv rest while in such a state? You were suf- 
fering from an internal abscess, the pain of which must have 
taken away all^feasure from you, unless you were quite hard- 
ened; and, indeed, we read of St. Catharine of Siena that she was 
Bupernaturally enabled to perceive the foulness and stench of the 
ulcers of impurity on the souls of those who were addicted to 
that vice, and the sight and smell of them caused her the utmost 
distrust. How could vou live iu such a state? You were iu 
prison, under the yoke of the devil, bound hand and foot, and 
the sentence of eternal death had been already passed on you; 
how could you continue in that state, without suffering constant 
fear and anxiety? Say what you will, it is impossible for you, 
unless you are a hardened sinner, to have rest or pleasure in it. 
The very stones must have pitied king David, if they could have 
heard him moaning, in the bitterness of his anguish, ** There is 
no health in my flesh, because of Thy wrath; there is no peace 
for my bones, because of my sins." ^ So much did the debts he 
had contracted trouble him. ** My sores are putrefied and cor- 
rupted, because of my foolishness." ' And therefore, *' I iim 
become miserable, and am bowed down even to the end; I 

* Non est sanitas In carne raea a facie Irae tuae ; non est pax ossihus mels a facie pecca- 
torum meonim.— Ps. xxxvll. 4. 
' Putrueruut et corrupta3 sunt cicatrices mese a facie Insiplentlae meae.— Ibid. 6. 

The Efficacy of the Sacrame^it of Penance. 233 

walked sorrowful all the day long; " ' so much pain did he feel 
from the hidden sore of his conscience. "I am afflicted and 
humbled exceedingly; I roai-ed with the groaning of my heart; " "^ 
so much was he tortured by his imprisonment and by the fear 
of eternal death. Other sinners have been known to take their 
own lives, either by hanging, or cutting their throats, or drown- 
ing themselves, and their only reason for doing so was to get 
rid of the tortures of conscience, which had become insupport- 
able. " Who hath resisted Him, and hath had peace?" ' Such 
is the question that the patieiit Job asks all sinners Avithout 
exception. Nor is there one of them all that could sa}', I have 
done so. 
Now, what is to be done bv one who is in this miserable state, ™s he gets 

' •' back m con- 

in order to regain the wished-for peace !and repose? Answer us, fession. 

penitent David, for you have had experience of it; tell us 
how you acted in your trouble and anguish! "I said, I will 
confess against mvself mv iin'nstice to the Lord: and Thou hast 
forgiven the wickedness of my sin; " * and thus I have again 
found peace of heart. It is by the confession of our sins, my 
dear brethren, that we receive the writing sealed with the pre- 
cious Blood of Jesus Christ, to prove that we have had all our 
debts remitted by the Almighty forever; by confession we get 
rid of the foul sore of sin; bv confession our chains are broken, 
we are libei'ated from the slavery of the devil and restored to the 
freedom of tlie beloved children of God. Hence, as a matter of 
course, when the cause of our fear, anxiety, and trouble has been 
removed, our minds must enjoy a great peace and contentment. 

1 call as witnesses to the truth of this all those who have been 
great sinners, and who have freed themselves from their sins by 
a good confession. How did you feel when 3^ou came out of the 
confessional, and had performed the penance imposed on you? 
Must you not acknowledge that it seemed as if a heavy mill-stone 
had been removed from vour necks; and as if the heavens looked 
brighter tlian before? You went to sleep with hearts filled with 
joy and peace, and you got up in the morning with the sweet 
assurance that you were among the fi'iends and children of God. 
It is evident, then, that, if one wishes to have true repose 

* Miser factus sum, <;t curvatus sura usque In flnem ; tola dfe contristatus injfrediebar.—- 
Ps. xxxvii. 7. 

- AfiBictus sura, et humiliatus sum nimis ; rugiebam a ffcraitu cordis mei.— Ibid. 9. 

* Quls resUtit ei, et pacem habult ?— Job. Ix. 4. 

* Dixl, confltebor adversum rae Injustitiam meara Domino ; et tu remislsti iuipletatem 
peccaLi mei. -Ps. xxxi. 5. 


234 The Efficacy of the Sacrainc7it of Penance, 

and enjoyment on earth, one must seek it in a good conscience. 
Therefore Tlms, siiuier, 3'ou luive received back in the sacrament of 
veryefflca- P^nancc e\erythiiig without exception that you had lost by your 



a 1 

sins. ** excellent virtue of penance I salutary unction I 
cries out, with reason, St. Thomas of Villanova. golden 
tears I sweet repentance I much-to-be-desircd confession! 
Who should not hasten to thee with joy and pleasure! Come, 
sinners, and try it but once, and learn what a happy and salu- 
tary thins: it is to be freed from the burden of sin! Come, 
repent of and confess your sins, and you will receive back all the 
good things yon have so sliamefully lost. Bat wh}' do I say you 
will receive back what you have lost? It will be with 3'ou as with 
the Hebrews when they were freed from the slavery of Egypt: 
'* He brouglit them out with silver and gold," ' says the Psalmist 
David, which they took from the Egyptians by the command 
of God; so that they went away richer than when they came. 
So also, I say, it will be with the sinner in the sacrament of pen- 
ance; not only will he get back all he had lost; but he will be- 
come richer in his soul than he ever was before; for he will have 
more graces and blessings after confession, than he ever had in 
the state of innocence. This I shall briefly explain in the 

Second Part. 
Byconfes- And are we, then, to sin boldly in order to become richer in 
sinnr^L g^'^^^es and merits after confession? By no means; that does 
made spirit- not at all follow from what I have said. To sin, and to have 
uaiiy richer }q^q^ fniiltv of sin, briuffs neither grace nor merit; for, as we 

than ever & ^ , . . ^ , . ° ... ,, 

he was be- have sceu already, it is the canker-worm that gnaws away all 
fore. Qyy^ merits and mortifies them; and, moreover, what is still 

worse, the good works we perform in the state of sin are of no 
value whatever as to eternal merit or reward. It is one thing 
to become richer by penance than one was before having sinned, 
and another to become richer than one would have been if 
one had never sinned. Therefore I say, by way of warning, to 
each and every one the words of the Prophet Jeremias: " Know 
thou and see that it is an evil and a bitter thing for thee to 
have left .the Lord thy God." ' But yet I say also, to the greater 
glory of the divine mercy and by way of encouragement to 
sinners, that they may repent more speedily, when sin has, 

» O exlmia poenitenlium virtus ! O unctio salntaris ! 
' Eduxit eos cum auro et argento.— Ps. civ. 37. 

^ Sclto, et vide quia malum et amarum est rellqulsse te Dominum Deum tuum.— Jerem. 
II. 19. 

The Efficacy of the Sacrament of Penance, 235 

unfortunately, once been committed, it is penance and con- 
fession which bring back all that was gained before in the 
state of grace, and add a w^^ gain to it. Hence we should at 
once resolve to make use of such an efficacious means, and to 
make a good confession of all our sins. And how can the 
repentant sinner become richer after confession, than he was 

Eirst, along with the graces he had before, he receives by the For he re- 
efficacy of the sacrament, through the merits of Jesus Christ ^'^^^"^ 
anew degree of sanctifying grace which he never had before, of sanctify- 
BO as to strengthen him against future temptations, and prevent i°»s''ace. 
him from falling again into sin. You see, therefore, tliat he 
has already gained by the sacrament of penance something he 
n-ever had before. But perhaps you will think that is not 
much. Oh, I answer, in the words of our dear Lord to the 
Samaritan woman, "■ If thou didst know the gift of God." ' If 
you only knew the value of this grace of which we are now 
speaking! Sanctifying grace is such a great and precious treasure, 
that the least degree of it is far more valuable than all the riches 
of the earth. All the wisdom, beauty, health, nobility, wealth, 
and power of all who ever were, are, or will be on earth, nay 
all the excellences of the angelic nature, are not to be compared 
to the smallest point of sanctifying grace, Avhich, when it clothes 
the soul, makes it pleasing to God; so that, if it were necessary, 
in order to gain the least part of this grace, that the world 
should be destroyed, the heavens convulsed and turned into 
chaos, and all the wonders of nature that the Almighty has 
created reduced to nothing, this loss, enormous as it would be, 
could not for a moment be compared with the worth of the 
grace thus gained. Because all those things, are but natural, 
while sanctifying grace is supernatural, and, as St. Thomas 
teaches, is a participation of the divine nature. What do vou 
think of it now? Is it only a small gain that is secured by 
penance? If it brought nothing else but this grace alone, it 
would be Avell worth our while to have frequent recourse to it, 
with hot tears of sorrow for our sins. 

The second advantage to be derived from the sacrament of He be omes 
penance is that the sinner who has been guilty of grievous ^^^^ ^"°^" 
transgressions, when he has once been convertedV and has re- zealous ia 
pented of and confessed his sins, is, generally speaking, more on t^e service 
his guard in future and is more humble and earnest in the ^' ^*^* 

* Si scires donum Del.— John Iv. 10, 

L^ ^ .i=. .^ 


! ■; 

And is 
more loved 
and prized 
by God. 

236 The Efficacy of the Sacrament of Penance. 

divine service, than he was before, and has a greater love of 
God than when he was innocent. For the remembrance of his 
deplorable fall, and the thought that he so often merited the 
pains of hell, must necessarily make him humble; while the 
recollection of the divine mercy, that has received him so loving- 
ly to grace after so many grievous sins, must soften his heart, 
inflame it with a greater love for so good a God, and with a 
determination to be more diligent in the service of God; while 
he will be more earnest in his efforts to avoid, not onlv mortal, 
but also even venial sin, than he was before to avoid mortal sin 
alone. That is the meaning of those words of Our Lord in the 
Gospel of St. Luke, *'I say to you that even so there shall be 
joy in heaven upon one sinner that doth penance, more than 
upon ninety-nine just wlio need not penance.''' But how is 
that? is the question asked by theologians; has God more 
pleasure in a penitent soul than in an innocent one? and, in fact, 
more pleasure than in ninety-nine just souls that have never 
offended Him? The state of innocence, answers St. Thomas of 
Aquin, is in itself a more perfect and happy state, and is more 
pleasing to God; yet the penitent sinner is in so far more pleas- 
ing to God, *^ because, generally speaking, penitents become 
more cautious, humble, and fervent.'"' Never did Magdalene 
love Christ more tenderly, than when she repented of and con- 
fessed her manifold sins; never was Peter more humble and 
fervent in procuring the glory of his Divine Master, than after 
he had denied Him, and bewailed his denial with bitter tears. 

From this it follows that he who does penance sincerely is 
loved more tenderly by the almighty God. St. Gregory explains 
by a simile the words of Christ that I have, just quoted; a 
general, he says, thinks more of a soldier who, having first fled 
from the enemy through fear, afterwards, in order to wipe out 
the memory of his cowardice, fights with the utmost bravery, 
than he does of one who has always remained faithful to his 
colors, but has never done anything remarkable. Again, a 
peasant takes more pleasure in the field that formerly produced 
nothing but thistles and thorns, but which he has now made to 
bring forth excellent crops, than in one that was always fruitful, 
although never in an extraordinary degree. In the same way 
God has frequently more pleasure and joy in a converted sinner, 
who had indeed formerly abandoned Him, but now stands by 

• Dice vobis, quod Ita ^udiam erit in coelo super uno peccatore poenitentiam agente 
quam super uonafrlnta novem justls, qui non indigent poenltentfa.— Luke xv. T. 
' Quia plerumque pcenitentes cautlores, humiliores, et lerventiores resurgunt. 

The Efficacy of the Sacrament of Penance, 237 

Him all the more heroically; who was before an accursed soil 
covered with weeds and brambles, but is now cleansed and 
produces excellent fruits of good works; greater joy, I say, has 
God in such a one than in an innocent, just man, who never 
offended Him grievously, and never showed any extraordinary 
zeal and earnestness in His service. Palladius tells us of a 
j)erson who lived a solitary life in a convent, but having formed 
an attachment for a person of the opposite sex, was guilty of 
many sins against holy purity; that, after she had done penance, 
and had devoted herself altogether with the greatest humility 
to the service of the sick, Our Lord said to a certain priest, 
** She pleases Me better in her repentance, than she did in her 

Finally, as a consequence of this, since God loves more tender- ^rdgen- 
ly those who are more inflamed with love for Him, it is senerallv ^'^^^'^^ 

, - ' xo ^ciiciaiij moregraoes 

the case that, as the repentant sinner becomes more humble and from God 
zealous in the divine service, so he also receives more graces '^^^'"^"y 

£ TiJ5i^j.y-,Ti ° "v-'-o, innocent 

favors, and benefits from God, than many others who never people, 
offended Him grievously and do not serve Him with so niucli 
zeal. For God acts very differently from the great ones of 
earth; if any one offends one of the latter, no matter how long 
or how humbly he asks for pardon, even if he obtains it through 
the intercession of some one in power, it will be a long time be- 
fore he can expect to receive any special mark of favor from the 
offended person; *• Manet alta mente repostum: " the great 
ones of earth are slow to forget an injury; nor can any amount 
of subsequent services wipe out the memory of it. " Is that the 
way with my God?" asks St. Peter Damian; '^no: perish the 
thought: for it is His custom to honor penitents more than the 
innocent." ' For when He has forgotten forever all the sinner's 
former offences He shows him the same favor as He does the 
innocent; and consequently, if the sinner loves and serves Him 
better. He is more loving and generous to him than to the inno- 
cent. Again the parable of the Prodigal furnishes us with a 
figure of this. On the return of his undutiful son, the father 
prepared a splendid banquet to welcome him, a thing he had 
never done for his other son, who had always been obedient to 
him, and who made it a subject of bitter complaint: '' Behold, 
for so many years do I serve thee, and I have never transgressed 

* Magls mihl placuit In poenitentla, qoam In vir^nitate .- Pallad. cap. 139. 
^ Numquld ita Deus meus ? absit ; consuevlt enim'honorare poenitentes magis quam In 

.^■•■^..-^ ^^— .1.-. ;-_-.^.-.. 

and exhor- 
tation to 
have re- 
course at 
once to such 
a useful 

for con- 
verted sin- 

238 The Efficacy of the Sacrament of Penance. 

thy commandment, and vet thou hast never oriven me a kid to 
make merry with my friends; but as soon ns tin's tliy son is 
come, who hath devoured his substance with hiiWots, thou hast 
killed for him the fatted calf." ' Magdalene/fornierly a public 
sinner, was the first among the holy women; Peter, who had 
denied his Master three times, was the first among the Apostles, 
according to the Holy Scriptures, to be honored by a visit from 
Our Lord after His resurrection; Paul became a great and won- 
derful saint, after he had persecuted the Church. Read the 
Lives of the Saints, and you will find many instances of penitent 
sinners being richer in the graces of prophecy and miracles 
than others who had never sinned grievously. I hope, on a 
future occasion, to speak of these more at length, to the greater 
honor and glory of the divine mercy. 

Christians, what a good and merciful God we have to deal 
with! If a criminal who is already under the gallows thinks it 
the greatest happiness to hear that his life is spared, how would 
he not exult with joy if he learned, moreover, that he Ajas to 
be raised to a throne? But a far greater happiness is given to 
us by the sacrament of penance; for not only are our lives 
spared, that we had forfeited eternally; not only do we get back 
all we had lost; but, besides, we become, by sanctifying grace, 
children of the almighty God, and heirs to an eternal kingdom; 
nay, we are higher in the favor of Our Lord than w-e were before. 
Is it possible, then, that there can be sinners who are afraid of 
confession? Who prefer to wallow like beasts in the filth of sin, 
rather than to sit on thrones of honor? Who prefer to die an 
unhappy death and go to hell, rather than gain endless treas- 
ures and riches by such an easy and efficacious means? Ah, rash 
mortals! how long will you, then, continue to rob your God of the 
joy He would have in your conversion, and yourselves of such 
a great good? *' For Christ we beseech you," I say to you in 
the words of St. Paul, "be reconciled to God;"' do not wait 
any longer, but try at once and see how sweet and merciful the 
Lord is to those who have Him as a friend. 

And you, converted sinners, who have already, by a good con- 
fession, laid aside the heavy burden of your sins, and are some- 
times oppressed and filled with anxiety at the recollection of 
your former crimes; be consoled, be of good courage, and rejoice 

* Ecce tot annis servio tibi, et nunquam mandatum tuum prspterlvl, et nunquam dedisti 
mlhi hoedura ut cum amicis meis epularer ; sed postquam flhus tuus hie, qui devoravit sub- 
stantiam suam cum meretricibus, venit ; occldistl illi vltulum saginatum.— Luke xv. 29-30. 

2 Obsecramus pro Christo, leconciliamini Deo.— II. Cor. v. 20. 

The Efficacy of the Sacrament of Penance. 239 

in the Lord! "The wickedness of the wicked shall not hurt 
him," such is the assurance the good God Himself gives you, " in 
what day soever he shall turn from his wickedness." ^ No; you 
are now beloved and prized by God, and, if you wish, you may 
be even more loved and prized than if you had never sinned, as 
I have already shown. Let us all, then, come to this conclusion: 
to serve henceforth the good God, who, as we must acknowledge, 
has been so merciful to us, with more care, humility and zeal, 
and to love Him above all things, constantly, to the end of our 
lives. Yes, my God, the special mercy Thou hast shown me 
deserves that I should make this resolution! Help me by Thy 
grace to keep it! Amen. 


» Impietas irapii non nocebit ei, In quacumque die conversus fuerit ab impletate sua 

Ezecb. zxxili. 1^ 






The sinner who wishes to return to God by a good confession 
must pray to God with humility. — Preached 07i the tenth Sunday 
after Pentecost. 


Percutiehat pectus stmm, dicens : Deus, propithis esto mihi 
peccatori. — Luke xviii. 13. 

"He struck his breast, saying: God, be merciful to me, a 


What cannot humble prayer obtain from God ? A great, public, 
and notorious sinner gains more by simply striking his breast, 
and heaving a penitent sigh, with the few words, ** God, be 
merciful to me a sinner," than the proud Pharisee with all his 
fasting, alms-deeds, and other good works. "I say to you," 
Buch is the testimony Our Lord gives on the matter, " this man 
went down into his house justified rather than the other." Sin- 
ful Christians, there you have a true pattern of a penitent! You 
must imitate the public sinner, if you are really determined to 
get rid of the filth of your sins by a good confession, and to 
return to God with your whole hearts. The examen of con- 
science, supernatural sorrow for your sins, an earnest and fixed 
purpose of amendment, the candid confession of all grievous 
sins to the priest, and the performance of the penance enjoined 


Prayer before Confession. 


en you : these, as you know, are all necessary to a good confes- 
sion. But there is another thing that must precede them, or 
else it will be very difficult to perform them properly. What is 
that? Humble prayer to God for the grace of true repentance, 
as I shall now show. 

Plan of Discourse. 

The sinner who wishes to return to God hy a good confession 
must pray to God ivith humility. Such is the whole subject of the 
present instruction. Therefore, sinners, pray loith the publican , 
" God, be merciful to me, a sinner." Pray also, ye just, that 
you may preserve the grace of God. Such shall be the conclusion. 

We all beg of Thee, Lord, through the merits of Mary and 
of our holy guardian angels, to grant to sinners the grace of true 
repentance, and to the just the grace of perseverance. 

It is an article of faith taught by the Catholic Church against No one can 
the error and heresy of Pelagius, that no one can do the least ^°J°^^ 
good work deserving of a supernatural reward, unless he is helped out a pre- 
fii-st by the grace of God, no matter what he may do witli his ^^°"^ ^'^^^^ 
own natural powers. This truth is founded on the words of Our ^ 
Saviour in the Gospel of St. John, '' As the branch cannot bear 
fruit of itself, unless it abide in the vine; so neither can you, 
unless you abide in Me. For without Me you can do nothing." ' 
''Blessed be God!" cries out St. Augustine, '"who in these 
words instructs the hearts of the humble," that they may not 
be exalted by their good works, but humbly ascribe every 
good thing that is in them to the grace and mercy of God; 
" and stops the mouths of the proud,"' who attribute everything 
to themselves and to their own strength, as if they required no 
help from any one. " Hear, ye proud ones," so he addresses the 
Pelagians; " have you understood those words? Christ, the Son of 
God, says: ' Without Me you can do nothing/ He does not say, 
'without Me you can do only a little,' but, nothing, not even 
the least thing, can you do without Me." 

Now, if this is undoubtedly true of the just man who is in the Mucnieas 
state of grace and is a friend and child of God, how much less, ^'° '^es*^-^ 
then, can the sinner who has lost sanctifying grace do penance ance.° ^°' 
and recover the friendship of God by his own efforts, unless he 
is urged thereto and assisted by the grace and help of the mer- 

* Slcut palmes non potest ferre fructum a semetipso, nisi manseiit In vite ; sic nee vos 
nisi in me manserltls. . . .Quia sine me nihil potestis facere.— John. xv. 4, 5. 
' Corda instnilt bumllium; ora obstrult superborum. 





Prayer before Confession. 

Man can sin 
by Ms own 
but not rise 

Because he 
takes away 

cifiil God? If, when I am standing upright and firmly on my 
feet, I cannot take a step forward without the divine assistance, 
how much more difficult must it not be for me to rise asrain 
without that assistance, when I have fallen down on the ground ? 
No; neither of the two is possible; and therefore, according to 
the decree of the Council of Trent, " if any one says that a man 
can believe, hope, love, or repent properly, without the previous 
inspiration and assistance of the Holy Ghost. ... let him be 
anathema."' Mark the words, *'do penance properly." The 
traitor Judas did penance, as the Gospel sa3's: "Judas ... re- 
penting himself, brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the 
chief priests and ancients;"' full of sorrow, he confessed his 
Bin. ** I have sinned in betravinff innocent blood." ' But his 
repentance was not of the right sort, and it did not obtain for 
him the forgiveness of his sin ; it was a mere natural sorrow, 
that deprived him of all hopes of happiness, and reduced him to 
despair. " He departed, and went, and hanged himself with an 

Thus we see that man can sin and grievously offend God by 
his own natural powers; but without the previous help and 
supernatural grace of God, he cannot rise properly from the 
state of sin. The reason of this is evident. I can, for instance, 
put out my own eyes, and make myself stone-blind; but can I 
restore my sight? No; that exceeds the powers of nature. I 
can throw myself from a height to the bottom of an abyss; 
but when I am lying down there, can I come out without 
help? That is impossible; my only chance is for some one to 
lower down a ladder or a rope, by which I may climb to the top. 
I can allow myself to be bound with an iron chain, or to be 
locked up in a dungeon; but can I loose the chain, or open the door 
of my prison, unless some one gives me a key for the purpose? 
I can take away my own life by violence; I can hang myself, or 
pierce my heart with a dagger (and would to God that there 
were not many rash mortals who thus put an end to themselves)! 
but when I have thus taken away my life, can T restore myself 
to life again? No; none but the almighty God can do that. 

It is just the same with the sinner, my dear brethren. What 
do you do, unhappy mortal, when you break the commandments 

> SI quls dixerit, sine praevenlente Splritus SanctI inspiratlone atque adjutorio ht^minem 
credere, sperare, dllij?ere, aut poenitere posse, sJcut oponet . . . anathema sit. 

* Poenltentia ductus retulit tricrinta ar^nteos principibus sacerdotum et senloribus.— 
Matt-xxvll. 3. 

* Peccavl, tradens sanf^cuinem Justum.— Ibid. 4. < Abiens laqueo se suspendit— Ibid. 5. 

Prayer before Confession. 


of God by committing a mortal sin? You deliberately put out by sin the 
your own eyes, and deprive yourself of the light of your soul. Jl^'^ione 
Hear what the Prophet Sophonias says: ''They shall walk like can restore, 
blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord." * They 
will stumble from one fault into another, as St. Jerome Says on 
this text; they will fall from one sin into another, when they 
have lost grace, and have become blind and perverse in their 
judgment and understanding, so that, for a momentary satisfac- 
tion of their wicked and brutal appetites, they are ready to 
sacrifice the eternal joys of heaven, and to change them for the 
torments of hell. And how can you recover your sight? Who can 
restore it to you? No other but He of whom the holy Evangelist 
St. John says: "That was the true light which enlighteneth 
everv man that cometli into this world."" lie it is who wishes 
to be appealed to in the words of the blind man, " Lord, that I 
may see." ' Hear how St. Augustine, in his soliloquy with God, 
describes how he was healed of his former spiritual blindness: 
"Late have I known Thee, true light."* A thick cloud of 
vanity had obscured, my sight, so that I could not see the Sun 
of justice and the Light of truth; I was wandering about, an 
unhappy child in the midst of darkness. I was pleased with my 
blindness, because I knew not the light. I was blind and loved 
my blindness, and wandered from one obscurity into another. 
" Who led me forth? Who took me by the hand to rescue me? 
Who was it that restored me to sight? It was Thou, Lord 
my God, who art full of mercy and forgiveness."^ I sought 
Thee not, and Thou didst seek me. Thou hast called out from 
on high to my heart, in a clear and penetrating voice, let there 
be light; and there was light. The dark cloud that was blind- 
ing me dissappeared, I saw Thy light, heard Thy voice, and said: 
*^ Truly, Thou art my God, who hast called me out of the darkness 
and the shadow of death into Thy won'derfnl light; and be- 
hold, 1 see."* " Thanks to Thee, who hast enlightened me."' 
" I should have been always blind, if it were not for Thee. 
For there is no light but in Thee."** ** I thank Thee for 

* Ambulabunt ut caecl, quia Domino peccaverunt.— Soph. I. IT. 

2 Erat lux vera, quae illuminat omnem horainem venientem Ih himc mundum.— John 1. 9. 
' Domine, ut videam.— Luke xvlll. 41. 

* O lumen verum, sero te cognovi. -St. Auff. Sollloq., c. 33. 

* Quls inde me eduxit? Quis aocepit raanura meam, ut Inde me educeret? Qui est ill© 
lUuniiTiator meus ? Tues, Domine Deu^ meus, miserieors et miserator. 

* Vere Domine tu es Deus meus, qui eduxisti m*» de tenebris, et umbra mortis, et vocastl 
me in admirabile lumen tuum: et ecce video. ' Gratlas tibi, illuminator meus. 

* Quia illuminari non poteram sine te, et nou est lux extra te. 


ill I 


Prayer before Confession. 

Gkxi alone 
can free 

having enlightened and redeemed nie." ' So far St. Angustine. 
He has cast And what have yon done besides, unhappy mortal, when you 
anabyss" sinned grievously? You deliberately cast yourself down into the 
from which depths of the abyss, of which the wise Man says in the Proverbs, 
"The wicked man, when he is come into the depth of sins, 
contemneth."' And how are vou to come forth out of that 
abyss? Ah, to no purpose would you strive; you would be lost 
and buried forever, if God did not stretch forth His hand to you 
and lielp you by His grace. " The deep hath closed me round 
about," such is the lamentation of the disobedient Jonas, *' the 
sea hath covered my head; I went down to the lowest parts of 
the mountains; the bars of the earth have shut me up forever. '^ ' 
What are you to do, unfortunate Prophet? to whom will you 
fly? ''Thou wilt bring up my life from corruption, Lord, 
my God; " * such was his confident appeal to heaven. It is Thou, 
and Thou alone, who canst draw me out of this abyss. Like to 
this is the sigh that I hear king David utter: " Out of the 
depths I liave cried to Thee, Lord."' Unhapjjy man, that I 
am; where am I ? Into what a fearful abyss I have cast myself! 
From these depths, out of which I cannot help myself by my 
own strength, I sigli and weep, and call out to Thee, Lord, 
*' Lord, hear my voice."' T^or will I cease crying, until Thou 
hast heard me. There is no hope for you, sinner, but in the 
help of the Lord I 

Besides, you have fettered yourself in this abyss with so many 
chains, and have shut the door so fast on yourself, that you have 
made it almost impossible for you to come out; as the penitent 
David again deplores: " The cords of the wicked have encom- 
passed me," ^ so that, even if I wished, I could not free myself. 
To break these chains, to open the door of this prison, is in Thy 
power alone, who sayest in the Apocalypse: "I have the keys of 
death and of hell," * and who hast said to Thy Apostle, Peter, 
" I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven." * *' And 
whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in 

• Gratias tlbl apjo, IHnmlnntor et liberator meus. 

' Impius, cum in profunclum venerit peccatonim, contemnlt.— Prov. xvill. 3. 
» Abyssus vallavit me, pelagus openiit caput meum; ad extrema montlum descendl; 

terrsB vectes concluserunt me in sptemum.— Jonas il. 0, T. 

• Sublevabis de corniptione vltam meam, Domine Deus mens.— Ibid. 

• De profundls clamavi ad te, Domine.— Ps. cxxix. 1. 

• Domine, exaudi vooem meam.— n)id. 2. 
^ Funes peccatonim clreumplexl sunt me.— Ibid, cxvlll. 61. 
« Habeo claves mortis et Infemi.— Apoc. 1. 18. 

• Tibi dabo claves rejjnl coelorum.— Matt, xvl, 19. 

He has 
bound him- 
self wltli 
which ordy 

Prayer before Confession. 


heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be 
loosed also in heaven." ' 

The mention of St. Peter's name reminds me of a strange i^^^^e st. 
thing that occurred to him; he was lying in prison at midnight, ^^^"^^^ 
bound with heavy chains, and guarded by two soldiers, and was ' * • 
to be led out to execution on the following morning; under these 
circumstances he slept as peacefully as if he had not the leasfc 
danger to fear. '' Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound 
with two chains, and the keepers before the door kept the 
prison."' But, Peter, is this a time for sleep? The executioner 
has his sword ready, and he will soon come to take your life; 
and yet you sleep as quietly, laden with your heavy chains, as if 
you were in a comfortable bed I A striking picture, my dear 
brethren, of the sinner who, laden with his crimes, as with so 
many chains, lies bound under the yoke of the devil, and must 
expect at any moment to hear that he is to be led out to eternal 
death; and yet he sleeps while in that state, he eats and drinks, 
and talks and laughs, as if he had nothing to fear. What • 
lamentable blindness and stupidity! But to return to Peter; 
what happened to him? '' Behold, an angel of the Lord stood by 
him; and a light shined in the room; and he, striking Peter on 
the side, raised him up, saying: Arise quickly. And the chains 
fell oif from his hands."' And the angel led him through the 
soldiers out of the prison. Again a striking picture of what 
occurs when the sinner returns to God. If the angel had not 
awaked Peter, he would have slept on; and even if he had 
awoke of his own accord, he would not have been able to free 
himself fi-om prison. In the same wa)^ there is no one whose 
soul is fettered by moi'tal sin who could even think of repenting, 
unless the light of grace first shone on him; and if he formed a 
thousand wishes to be converted and do penance, he would not 
be able to fulfil one of them by his natural powers alone, unless 
the angel of the Lord, that is God's powerful grace, first burst 
his chains and freed him from the slavery of the devil. 

St. Anselm once met in the street a child who, to amuse it- shown by a 
self, had tied a string around the feet of a sparrow, so that, when ^^™"®" 
the bird flew up into the air, seeking its libertj', the child could 

' Et quodcumque Hjfaveris super terram, erit ligatumet in coelis : et quodcumque solverls 
wper terram, erit solutum et In coelis.— Matt. xvi. 19. 

' la ipsa nocte erat Petrus dorraiens inter duos milltes, vlnctus catenis duabus, et custodes 
ante ostium custodiebant carcerem. -Acts xil. '>. 

' Eoce. anjrelus Domini astltlt, et lumen refulsitin habltaculo; percussoque latere Petri 
excltavit eum, diceos: surge veloclter. Et ceciderunt catenae de manlbus ejus.— Ibid. 7. 





Prayer before Confession. 



lie has mur- 


dered bis 

soul, and 

Cod alone 


can restore 

it to Ufe. 


pull it back; this the child did several times to its 
amusement. The holy man saw what was goii.g on, and felt 
great pity for the unfortunate bird; ah I he said, I wish the 
string would break, so that the bird might fly away. At last the 
thread did break, and the bird escaped, whereupon the child 
commenced to cry bitterly, wiiile Anselm, on the contrary, was 
highly delighted. His companions were amazed that such a 
great man, and an archbishop to boot, could take such interest 
iu mere chiUl's play, as to give evident signs of its exciting in 
him both joy and sorrow. But he said to them, were you look- 
ing at what the child was doing with the bird? Do you know 
■what I was thinking about? That this is just the way in which 
the devil plays with many men^; for when he has bound them 
fast in his chains, he di"ags them down at pleasure into one sin 
after the other; and there is many a one who is given to impu- 
rity, injustice, drunkenness, cursing, and swearing that knows 
the unhappy state in which he is, and sometimes cries out, ah, 
would that I could free mvself from this evil habit! He is then 
like the sparrow, and tries to fly into the air; but the devil, by 
means of long-continued habit, drags him back again into his 
former sins of drunkenness, theft, or impurity. In a word, he 
will not be set at liberty, until a special grace of God bursts his 
bonds; and then he can joyfully sing, with the penitent David: 
'* Blessed be the Lord, who hath not given us to be a prey to their 
teeth. Our soul hath been delivered as a sparrow out of the 
snare of the fowlers. The snare is broken and we are delivered. 
Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and 
earth,''' without whose help we and all poor sinners should still 
be in the clutches of the devil. 

Finally, unhappy mortal, when you commit a mortal sin, you 
cruelly murder yourself, inasmuch as you take away the life of 
your poor soul. " I am straitened on every side," said the 
chaste Susanna, when she fell into the hands of the godless elders; 
" for if I do this thing it is death to me; " if I consent to your 
wishes, I shall have to suffer death; ''and if I do it not, I shall 
not escape your hands."* What dost thou say, Susanna? "It- 
is death to me." Xo; the contrary is the case. If you consent 
to the will of those wicked men, your life will be spared; but if 

» Benedlctus Domlnus qui non dedlt nos In captfonem dentlbus eorum. Anima nostra 
glcut passer erepta est de laqueo venantluin; laqueus contritus esr, et nos liberatl sumos. 
iLdJutorium nostrum in nomine Domini, qui fecit coelum et terram.— Ps. cxxlll. ft-8. 

* Anjrustlae sunt mihi undique ; si enlm hoc epero, mors mihi est ; si autem noa ejrero, 
noa efluglam manus vestras.— Dan. xlii. 22. 

Prayer before Confession . 


you do not consent, they have threatened to accuse you as an a- 
dulteress, that you may be stoned to death. No; said the wise 
and holy woman; if I do as they ask me, and commit sin, it will 
be the death of my soul, '' But it is better for me to fall into 
your hands without doing it, than to sin in the sight of the 
Lord."' I would rather die a thousand times, than sin before 
the Lord, and thereby inflict eternal death on my soul. Mark, 
sinner; your soul is dead; who will, who can recall it to life 
again? Ah, that is not in your own power. That requires the 
almighty power of God. If He by His* grace does not call you 
forth, like another Lazarus, from the grave of sin, you are and 
must remain dead forever. There is no other means for you to 
regain life, but the help of God. 

From this it follows, in the first place, that he who is guilty of ^^^^ ^e 
grievous sin is most presumptuous; for he deliberately places him- ^^ ^'"" 
self in a state from which it is impossible for him to free himself, actsfMUsh- 
in order to save his soul, by his own unassisted efforts. For, on ^^* 
the one hand, when God is forsaken by man, He is not bound 
to give him the grace of true repentance; and, on the other hand, 
no man can repent sincerely without that grace. Hence St. 
Thomas of Aquin, answering the question whether it is just that 
he who commits but one mortal sin, which may consist in a mere 
momentary desire wilfully entertained, should be punished by 
the fire of hell for all eternity, says that it certainly is a just and 
righteous punishment; and in addition to other reasons, which 
I will explain on some future occasion, he gives this one for his 
answer: namely, that man, when he sins, commits the sin for- 
ever, and, as far as he can, makes the resolution to remain in sin 
for eternity;' and therefore it is right that his punishment 
should be eternal. But how can that be? Nearly all who sin, 
unless they have become quite desperate, intend doing penance 
afterwards, and freeing themselves from the state of sin. True; 
but whence has a man the assurance that he will be able to do 
penance? According to the Angelic Doctor, he places himself 
in a state from which he cannot be freed, unless by the divine 
assistance," ' and God is not bound to give him that assistance. 
To explain his meaning, the same holy Doctor makes use of the 
simile of the man who wilfully casts himself down into an abyss. 
If you tnow, he says, that you cannot possibly come out again, 

» Sed melius est mlhl absque opere inclderrt In manus vestras, quam peccare In consnecta 
Domini.— Dan. xiil. 23. 

* Quia bomo in suo etemo peccavit. 

* Ponit se In statu a quQ erui non potest, nisi divlnltus adjutus. 


Prayer before Confessio7i, 

Shown by 
an example 
by way of 

he who de- 
fers pen- 
ance runs 
a great risk. 

unless some one brings you a ladder, can it not be said of you, 
with truth, that your intention was to remain there during your 
life? There is not the least doubt of it; although you may have 
said to yourself that you would wait for some passer-by to help 
you. For how do you know that the man will come, or that he 
will help you? You act just as foolishly and presumptuously 
when you cast yourself into the deep abyss of mortal sin. 

Some peasants once revolted at Antioch, and threw down the 
statues of the emperor, for which crime the judge sentenced 
them to a cruel death; but, as St. John Chrysostom relates, a 
wise old man stood up and calmed the judge's anger with these 
few words: " it is true that the statues were thrown down, but 
they have been put up again."' A great crime has certainly 
been committed against the emperor; but his statues are now 
in the same position they occupied before. But if you put to death 
human beings, who are made to the image of God, *' how will you 
be able to restore them to life as^ain?"' How will you be able to 
raise up that which is thrown down, and to bring the dead back 
to life? A very sensible argument, indeed! Would that all men 
made use of it in matters which concern their spiritual welfare! 
All worldly goods, Christians, are merely perishable earthen 
statues, which can be replaced if they happen to be lost or de- 
stroyed; but that most beautiful image of the Blessed Trinity, 
which is impressed on your soul, if it is once destro3'ed by sin, 
how can it be restored again ? It is infallibly true that you are 
not able to restore it by your own efforts. Therefore consider 
well what you are about, and say with Susanna it is far better 
for me to die a thousand times, than to drag my soul down to 
eternal death by even one mortal sin. 

It follows, in the second place, that the sinner acts most rash- 
ly towards his poor soul, when he defers repentance, although 
he has received good inspirations, thoughts, and graces from the 
good God, to induce him to amend his life. For he does not 
know whether he will ever again be offered the help that God 
now offers him. It is the same as if he said: I know, Lord, 
that Thou wilt now restore my sight, and that if Thou dost not ' 
do so, I shall be in darkness forever; but I do not wish to see 
the light as yet; if Thou offerest it to me at some other time, I 
will accept it. Thou stretchest out Thy beneficent hand to help 
me out of the depths of the abyss, into which I have wilfully 

* Statuse qnidem dejectse sunt ; rursum tamen erectse fuerunt.— St. Chrysos. Horn. DT 
ad pop. 
' Quomodo rursum poteritis commlssum reyocare. 

Prayer before Confession. 


cast myself, but Thou mayest go away now; I prefer to remain 
liere a little longer; hereafter, when it suits me better. Thou canst 
return and help me out. Thou art willing to break the chains 
that keep me bound in the slavery of the devil; but I do not wish 
to be set at liberty now; hereafter, when I shall have changed 
my mind, Thou mayest do what Thou art willing to do now. 
Thou desirest to free my soul now from eternal death; but I do 
not wish to live at present; at some future time Thou canst 
render me that service, and help me to arise from the grave. 
Ah, presumptuous mortal! how can you dare to entertain such 
thoughts? ^^ To day, if you shall hear His voice, harden not 
your hearts.'-' ' Now, at this moment, if 3'ou hear the voice of 
God calling to you, do not close your ears, but accept the prof- 
fered grace, for it may never be offered you again. 

Finally, the truth I have undertaken to prove follows, namelv, Lastly, the 
that he who is in the state of sin must humbly be? of God the ?°"!' ""^ 

„ , ^ ^ , , * humbly beg 

grace of true repentance and conversion, so that what he is un- of God the 
able to do by his own natural powers may become possible to '^"^^ '^ ^ 
him by the help of divine grace. It is true that, as I have often ^°'" 
said before, the merciful God is always ready and willing to 
give to the sinner who earnestly wishes to repent the necessary 
grace to enable him to do so, and He has assured us of that 
with an oath by the Prophet Ezechiel: ''As I live, saith the 
Lord God, I desire not the death of the wicked, but that the 
wicked turn from his way and live." ' Mark the desire that the 
Lord has to help all sinners; so great is it, that He calls it His 
life, as it were. If a man does anything very willingly it is 
said to be his life; thus, eating and drinking is his life; hunting 
is his life; study is his life, etc., and the meaning of that is, 
that the man finds his greatest pleasure in those occupations. 
*' As I live, saith the Lord God, I desire not the death of the 
wicked, but that the wicked tarn from his way. " My greatest 
pleasure. My life, is to help him and show him mercy. That 
I say, is quite true; but God does not force His help and grace 
on any one who does not wish to receive them. He desires to be 
asked for them; '' ask, and you shall receive," ' He says. Some- 
times the Lord knocks uninvited at the door of our hearts; He 
gives the sinner powerful inspirations and graces to urge him to 
repent, so that his heart is filled to overflowing with contrition 

* Hodie, si vocem ejus audferitis, nollte obdurare corda vestra.— Ps. xclr. 8. 

* Vivo ego, dlcit Dominus Deus, nolo mortem impil, sed ut couvertatur Implus a via 
sua, et vlvat.— Ezech. xxxiil. 11. 

" Petite et accipietis.— John. xvl. 24. 



Prayer before Confession. 

Prayer Before Confession. 


I ^11 

and exhor- 
tation to 
sinners to 
pray hum- 
bly for the 
(frace of re- 

and sorrow, although he never asked those graces from God, and 
was actually continuing to commit sin, without the least thought 
of repentance. Such is the experience of many who happen by 
chance to read a spiritual book they have picked up somewhere, 
or to hear a sermon, when mere curiosity, if not a worse motive, 
has induced them to go to church. But these cases are, so to 
speak, miracles and wonders of the divine mercy; and it would 
be great presumption to expect anything of the kind in one's 
own case. As a general rule, God gives His grace to those who 
are prepared to receive it; the first grace is usually a salutary 
thought and desire of the sinner to be converted; from this desire 
springs the impulse to pray humbly to God for the grace of true 
rejientance; but if that prayer is neglected, the other graces are 
withheld, and frequently they are never offered the sinner again. 
Therefore, pray, sinners, pray humbly and fervently, like 
the publican in to-day's Gospel, knowing that you cannot do 
anything of yourselves, "0 God, be merciful to me, a sinner.'' 
Pray, not only in the ordinary way, before confession, that you 
may know the number of your sins; but, what is more impor- 
tant, pray for true contrition and sorrow, that you may return to 
God with all your heart. And you especially, obdurate sinners, 
who have neither wish nor desire to do penance, and who think 
it impossible to give up your sinful habits and to amend your 
lives, do not allow yourselves to get into such a desperate state 
that you forget prayer altogether. Send up your sighs to heav- 
en, and cry out daily with the blind man, "Lord, that I may 
see." Stupidly and blindly have I been wandering for a long 
time on the way to eternal darkness; and I have no one in the 
whole world to show me the way to heaven, but Thee, true 
Light of my soul I Lord, I beg humbly for this light, that I may 
see, and know the danger of the state in which I am; that I 
may see and know the grievous malice and deformity of my sins; 
that I may see and know what a great and infinite God I have 
insulted and offended, what a great and infinite good I have lost 
forever, and that I may at once repent with my whole heart. 
Cry out, with the penitent David, *' Out of the depths I have 
cried to Thee, Lord: Lord hear my voice;" I am lying at 
the bottom of an abyss from which I cannot save myself, unless 
Thou stretchest forth Thy hand to help me." "Let Thy ears 
be attentive to the voice of my supplication. " ' Say, with the 
same David: " The cords of the wicked have encompassed me; " 

* nant aures tuse Intendentes in Tocem deprecationls meae.— Ps. czxlx. 2. 

I wish, Lord, that I could fly up to Thee! But I cannot; 
Thou must help me! Send Thy holy angel to fill my heart with 
trouble and anguish, until my chains are broken and I regain 
the freedom of Thy beloved children! With the patient Job, 
look towxirds your Eedeemer and cry out to Him for help: save 
me, Lord, for my soul is dead and putrefying in the filth of 
sin; restore it to life. Li the boundless treasury of Thy graces, 
Thou surely hast one that is powerful enough to soften my hard • 
heart, and to breathe the breath of life into my soul. Be mer- 
ciful to mc, a sinner, that I may not die impenitent! So you 
should pray if you are still in the state of sin and feel no desire 
to repent; and you should also be diligent in hearing sermons, 
for the good God is specially generous with His graces when the 
faithful are assembled to hear His word. 

And you, just souls, learn from what has been said to be truly To the just 
humble of heart. Do not imagine that, if you have been hither- be kept 
to free from mortal sin, or have committed less sin than others, from sin. 
that this is to be ascribed to your own natural strength. The 
same God, whose grace is necessary to enable the sinner to do 
penance, must also help us not to fall into sin. All of us, with- 
out exception, must pray daily, "lead us not into temptation," 
that is, help us, Lord, that we may not be separated from 
Thee and Thy friendship by any temptation; keep us from 
those occasions and allurements in which Thou foreseest that 
our weakness would lead us into sin. Think and say often, with 
humility and thankfulness, if Thou, Lord, hadst not preserved 
me in so many dangerous occasions of sin, if Thou hadst not 
borne me in Thy hands by. Thy powerful grace, into how many 
grievous sins might I not have fallen? And therefore I say, with 
Thy servant Augustine, " I attribute it to Thy mercy and grace 
that Thou hast freed me from my sins, and that I have avoided 
whatever evil I have not committed." ^ Nor will I cease, as 
long as I live, to implore Thy grace and mercy, for I am in the 
greatest need of them, weak mortal that I am, every moment of 
my life, to avoid falling into sin, and I will j)ray with Thy holy 
Church, "May Thy grace, Lord, always prevent and follow 
us, and grant that we may be always intent on good works, 
through Jesus Christ, Our Lord.' 

a 2 

* GratisB tu(B deputo et miserlcordiae, quod peccata mea solvisti ; gratiae tuae deputo et 
quoBcunque non feci mala. 

' Tua, nos qiijesumus. Domine, j?ratia semper praBveniat et sequatur, ac In bonis operibus 
Juji^Iter prsestat esse intentos, per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum. 

i t' 

252 T/ie Nature of the Examen of Conscience. 





He who wishes to make a good confession, must, 1. examine 
his conscience himself, and, 2. must examine it with proper 
diligence and care. — Preached on the eleventh Sunday after 


Surdns fecit audire, et mutos loqui. — Mark vii. 37. 
" lie hath made both the deaf to hear and the dumb to 


What a multitude of deaf and dumb there are in our days in 
the Christian world! For, my dear brethren, sinners are often 
deaf, and will not hear anything of repenting of and confessing 
their sins; and they are often dumb and do not confess their 
sins at all, or else do not confess them properly. Almighty God, 
Thou art the only One who canst make the deaf to hear and the 
dumb to speak; ah, pierce, Ave beg of Thee, by Thy powerful 
inspirations and graces the hearts of all sinners, that they may 
now open their ears, and loosen tlieir tongues, that they have 
wilfully made dumb, to confess their sins as they ought, that 
they may be freed from them. This is the request that I again, 
in the name of God, make of all sinners: return to God now at 
least; do penance and confess your sins: but as we have seen in 
the last sermon, first you must humbly beg of God to give you the 
grace of true repentance. I continue my explanation of the 
different requisites that are necessary for a good confession. 
After the light of the Holy Ghost has been implored by fervent 
prayer, the next thing is the examen of conscience, or the effort 
to find out what sins we have committed. The defect of this 
requisite is the cause that many a confession is not made prop- 
erly. I shall now explain the nature of this examination. 

Plan of Discourse. 

He who wishes to mnJce a good confession must examine his 
conscience himself ; such will be hriefiy the first part. He tvho 
wishes to make a good confession must examine his conscience 

The Nature of the Exajnen of Coiisciencc. 253 

icitli proper diligence and care; such luill he the second and 
longer part. 

That all this may be done, we beg Thy light and grace, 
Lord, through the intercession of Thy Mother Mary and of the 
holy guardian angels, so that all sinners may sing Thy praises 
with gratitude, and acknowledge that Thou hast made the deaf 
to hear, etc. 

In the first place, then, it is necessary that he who wishes to The nature 
make a good confession should examine his conscience himself; ^f"'^'^''" 
and that is required by the nature and properties of the sacra- SnTnce^e- 
ment of penance, which has been instituted by Our Lord ^g '^"^''^^ ^'"''^ 
a kind of judgment. In civil courts of justice, no one is ques- shor^Tt' 
tioned unless he has been caught in the act of committino- .^ examine ws 
crime, or has been accused by some one else; otherwise the *'°°'''**'''''^' 
accused need not confess his guilt, nay, he can deny it unless it 
is proved against him. It is quite different with the sacrament 
of penance; the criminal must accuse himself, without being 
questioned, or put to the torture, or having his crime proved 
against him; and of his own free will he must make known his 
own secret and hitherto unknown evil deeds. He is at the 
same time a poor sinner, his own accuser, and the witness 
against himself; and the judge who is sitting there in the place 
of the almighty God has to pronounce sentence only on what 
the penitent accuses himself of. But how can a man accuse 
himself, when he does not know what he has been guilty of? 
And how can he know that unless he has thought of^ and ex- 
amined into, and remembered what he has done against the law 
of God? From this it is evident that they act very wrongly and 
foolishly who rush into the confessional without any preparation, 
trusting solely to the questions of the confessor. Would it not 
be a foolish thing for yon to accuse a man in judgment, and to 
say to tlie judge, this man has committed a great crime; you 
must ask me what he has done? What could you expect as the 
result of an accusation of that kind? Still more unreasonable is 
your conduct when you go to confession and say to the priest, 
Father, I have sinned; please question me. You yourself must 
declare in what and how often you have sinned. The priest is 
not sitting there to ask you questions, but to hear what you 
have to say against yourself. He is not sitting there to accuse 
you, but to judge you according to the sins you confess to him, 
and, if you are worthy, to give you absolution from them. 

Unless he Is 
Incapable of 
so doing. 





He who 
does not ex- 
amine bis 
but depends 
on the ques- 
tions of his 
runs the 
risk of mak- 
ing a bad 

254 The Nature of the Examen 0/ Conscience, 

It may sometimes occur that through weakness, or illness, or 
stupidity, or simplicity, one cannot undbrtake the examen of 
conscience, or knows not how to set about it; in a case of that 
kind charity obliges the confessor to help his penitent as far as 
possible and to supply for his incapacity by asking him ques- 
tions. But God does not require much in the way of examination 
from people of the kind; and therefore theologians say that it is 
enough for an ignorant, uneducated man,. who cannot recollect 
anything particular, to excite himself to sorrow for all his past 
sins, and to be prepared, when he enters the confessional, to 
answer all the questions put to him by the confessor, and to 
declare honestly what has been his condition, occupation, and 
mode of life hitherto. But when a man has common sense 
enough in matters relating to his family, or business concerns, 
and can remember the good or the evil that others have done 
him, if he were to pretend ignorance or forgetfulness in what 
concerns the all-important business of his soul, and to say, I 
cannot remember anything, Father, please question me: such 
conduct, as St. Bernard says, would be nothing bat carelessness 
with regard to knowing his sins;* and therefore he would not 
fulfil the commandment of God that St. Paul makes known to 
us in the words, *^ Let a man prove himself,'' ^ and examine 
his own conscience. 

Besides, it is a well-known and undoubted necessity that one 
should confess all his sins (that is to say, all his mortal sins 
that have not yet been properly confessed), declaring their num- 
ber, along with the circumstances that notably aggravate their 
guilt, or at least those circumstances that change their nature; 
and if even one of them is omitted through culpable ignorance 
or wilful negligence, the confession and the absolution are null 
and void. But how can you reasonably expect to escape the 
danger of making an invalid confession, if you do not examine 
your conscience, but leave the whole matter to your confessor? 
Must he guess what you have done against the commandments 
of God, and how often and how grievously you have sinned? 
Do you wish to act like King Nabuchodonosor, who expected 
his sooth-savers to tell him what he had dreamt? "I have 
dreamed a dream," he said to them, "and am troubled in 
mind and know not what I dreamed . . . therefore tell me the 
dream and the interpretation thereof." ' A ridiculous thing 

> Sclendi Incurla. ' Probet autem selpsum homo.— I. Cor. xl. 28. 

» Vidi somnium, et mente confusus ignoro quid rlderim . . . somnlum Igltur, et Interpre- 
tatlonem ejus, indicate mihi.— Dan. U. 3,6. 

The Nature of the Examen of Conscience* 255 

certainly for the king to ask, and therefore the sooth-sayers 
said to him: "Let the king tell his servants the dream, and 
we will declare the interpretation of it," ' You must first tell 
us what you have seen in your dream; for it is not our 
duty to find out that, and then w^e will explain to you what 
it signifies. 

I have sinned, you say to your confessor; Father, please ques- Because the 
tion me. And what is he to question you about? How does he ^nnoT""^ 
know what you have done? Has he seen your thoughts during know the 
the week, month, quarter, or half year that has elapsed since ^^eoSe 
your last confession? Has he heard all you have said during 
that time at home and in company? Has he been liere, there, 
and everywhere with you, like the omnipresent God Himself? 
Generally speaking, he does not even know who you are; he has 
never been in company with you, and perhaps has never seen 
you before; he knows nothing of your secret desires and inclina- 
tions, nothing of the occasions, temptations, and allurements 
to sin in which you may have been; nothing of your good or 
evil habits; nothing of those with whom you associate, nor of 
your business or occupation, etc. Xow, all these circumstances 
may be the occasion of different vices and sins, and they must 
be examined and inquired into according to tlie number and 
gravity of the sins committed. For it is not enougli merely to 
go through the commandments of God and of tlie Clinrcli; but 
each one has to pay particular attention to his state and occupa- 
tion, because, generally speaking, there is a difference between 
the sins committed by married people and those who are un- 
married; by masters and mistresses, and by servants; by officials 
and superiors, and by subjects and inferiors; by merchants and 
shop-keepei's, and by tradesmen and laborers; by citizens in the 
town, and by peasants, in the country, etc. For the different 
states of life have their separate duties and obligations, and 
their separate dangers and occasions of sin. But how can one 
who knows nothing whatever of your affairs guess at, or find 
out by questions, what you have in the depths of your conscience? 
You have quite enough to do to find out all about it yourself, 
and to get a clear idea of what you have done against God and 
your neighbor in thought, desire, word, and deed; is not that 
so? How, then, can you imagine that you will be able, when 
your confessor asks you one or two questions, to remember at 

» Rex somnlum dlcat servis suis, et Interpretatlonem ilUus indlcablmus.— Dan. ll. 



256 The Nature of the Ex amen 0/ Coitscience. 

once all those circumstances of place, time, opportunity, and 
company, so as to answer the questions properly, and say with 
certainty, ves, I liavc done that; no, I haye not done that; I 
have committed that sin so and so often, etc.? Even if you are 
asked a hundred questions, and haye given a hundred answers, 
how can you trust to those answers, which must be yery uncer- 
tain, for the validity of the absolution you expect to receive? 
Arc you not tlius runnincr the risk of nullifying the holy sacra- 
ment of penance, and dishonoring it by a grievous sacrilege? 
If you leave out a mortal sin, and it is hardly to be expected 
that you should not under the circumstances, whose fault is it? 
Your own; because you did not examine your conscience as you 
should have done; and your ignorance is the result of a culpable 
negligence, which will not excuse you before God. Therefore 
one should examine his conscience before confession; and, as 
the forgiveness of sin depends on it, this examination must not 
be made lightly and in a superficial manner, but with due care 
and diligence. This we shall see in the 

Second Part. 

A simile to A judge who has been commissioned by his sovereign to try a 
explain th(! p^^.^.^j^^ individual who has been accused of a crime does not 

amount of , . . , i . ^ m ^ 

fulfil his duty by merely examining the matter cursorily; for 
such carelessness on his part would show that he does not wish 
to find out the guilty person. It is not, however, easy to decide 
the exact amount of diligence that he must employ; all we can 
say is that it must be a reasonable diligcTice, such as is suited 
to the nature of the crime, to the place in which it was com- 
mitted, to the time required for investigating the matter, and 
to the expenses that have to be incurred; and further, it must 
be such as will seem sufficient to any sensible man who under- 
stands the matter. For instance, a murder has been committed 
in a town, and some persons w^ere witnesses of it; now he who 
has to examine into the affair goes about the streets and asks 
every one whom he happens to meet if he has not heard who is 
the guilty person. There are some who say they know nothing 
about it, while others profess to know all about it. But he does 
not make any further inquiries. Do you think he has done his 
duty? Ko, certainly not; no sensible man would say that he 
had. Why so? Because he should have first sent for those who 
were present at the murder and have questioned them as wit- 
nesses. Again, if he knows who the criminal is, he sends an 


The Nature of the Examen of Conscience. 257 

officer of the law to apprehend him; the oflftcer goes to his house 
and looks for him in the room he usually occupies, but not find- 
ing him there, goes away and makes no further search. Do you 
think, my dear brethren, that enough diligence has been used to 
bring the murderer to justice? No; there is not the least doubt 
that the judge has neglected his duty. And what should he 
have done? lie should have caused the gates of the town to be 
closed, so as to prevent the criminal from escaping; and then 
he should have gone with soldiers, and have searched every cor- 
ner of th.e criminal's house, and also of every house in the neio-h- 
borhood wdiere he could have suspected him of hiding; and that 
search should be continued for some days. If, in spite of all 
these efforts, the judge does not succeed in finding the murder- 
er, then every sensible man must say that, at all events, he has 
done his duty, and that he could not have been expected to em- 
l^loy greater diligence. But why? He might have spent months 
in searching out every corner in the whole town; and then, 
certainly, he w^ould have taken more trouble in fulfilling his 
duty. True the trouble would have been greater; but there 
was no reason for his taking it, since the crime of one man is 
not a sufficient reason for keeping the gates of the town closed 
for such a long time, nor for going to the expense of searching 
every house, and that, too, to the great inconvenience of the 
people. Dae proportion being observed, the same is to be 
said of the examination of conscience before confession. No 
general rule can be laid down with regard to the amount of 
time and care that are to be employed therein, for penitents 
differ in their conditions and capabilities, and some require 
more time and care than others. According. to circumstancea 
each one must employ what can be called, in the general ac- 
ceptation of the term, a reasonable diligence. The Council 
of Trent says distinctly that diligence should be used in 
the examen of conscience; "■ all mortal sins that one finds 
on his conscience after a diligent examination must be de- 
clared in confession." ^ And farther on, speaking of the obliga- 
tion of confessing all mortal sins, it says, '^ which occur to the 
memory after due and diligent reflection."' But the Council 
does not say what particular amount of time or diligence is 

^ Oportere omnia peccata raortalia, quorum post diligentem sui discussionem conscientlam 
habent, in confessione recenseri.— Trid., sess. xiv., c. 4. 
^ Quorum memoria cum debita et dillgenti praemeditatione habeatur.— Can. 7. 






The lenprth 
of time to 
be em- 
shown by 

258 T/ie Nature of the Examen 'of Conscience. 

The safest rule to follow, and one generally p^'P^c^'i^ed by- 
theologians, is, for one to employ as much time and diligence, 
according to his state of life, as all sensible people would employ 
in any other matter of great importance. To make this clearer, 
I will explain it by a simile. You have an important account 
to render in which there is question of a large sum of money; if 
you give in your accounts every week or fortnight regularly, 
the matter is easy enough, and does not require much (rouble 
on your part; all you have to do, is to look at your account-book, 
and you will see it all at a glance. But if it is many months, 
or even years, since you squared up your reckoning, and if, 
moreover, you have allowed things to get into disorder through 
carelessness, or if you have otherwise been prevented from keep- 
ing your books properlv, and if, at the same time, the monster, 
who demands the account is a very exact and careful man, while 
you yourself must acknowledge that all your interests are com- 
pletely in his hands, how would you act? Would you think an 
hour or even a whole day too much to spend in putting the 
matter into order? My opinion is that whole weeks and months 
■would hardly seem long enough to you; and meanwhile you 
would give up all other business, and would tell your servant 
not to allow any one to interrupt you. In a word, you would 
strain all your powers of memory and understanding to set 
matters right, especially if your master kept on urging you, in 
the words of the rich man in the Gospel, **give an account of 
thy stewardship." ' So it is with you, sinner, when you are 
preparing for confession. You are about to undertake a great 
business on which the happiness of your soul for all eternity de- 
pends, and if you make a grievous and culpable error in youi 
accounts, you will certainly be ruined. Ts this matter perhaps 
of less importance to you than your temporal and transitory 
prosperity? Are not worldly goods worth less than nothing 
when compared to the treasures of your immortal soul? He 
who demands the account from you is the great God Himself; 
is He, perhaps, less experienced in His own affairs, less exacting 
in His claims, less just and powerful in His punishments, than 
a mere mortal? Hear what He says of Himself by the Psalmist: 
"The searcher of hearts and reins is God."' "I will search 
Jerusalem with lamps," ' He says by the Prophet Sophonias; so 

» Redde ratlonem vlllicationls tuoD.— Luke xvl. 2. 
' Scnitans corda et renos Deus.— Ps. vll. 10. 
> Scrutabor Jerusalem in lucernis — Soph. i. 12. 

The Nature of the Examen of Conscience, 259 

exact is He. Our Lord, exhorting us not to fear man, but God 
alone, says of Him that He '' can destroy both body and soul 
into hell," ' so powerful is He. This is the Lord who calls 
out to you, when you are about to confess your sins, *'give au 
account of thy stewardship; " give an account of how you have 
spent your time hitherto, of the use you have made of the 
powers of your soul and of the senses of your body; of how you 
have fulfilled the obligations of your state of life; of what you 
have thought, spoken, done, and omitted; of what you have 
gained, and of what you have squandered. Give an account of 
how it has been with your conscience during the past. What 
must you do, man; how have you to set to work? 

Are vour accounts clear, correct, and in good order? (I am Those who 

. 1 T 1 j^i 1 £i. live piously 

speaking now of those Christians who, although they have otten ^nd confess 
sinned grievously in the past, yet have made a good confession, often can 
and are now trying with all possible care to serve God, so that, at ^._^^^ ^^^^^^ 
all events, they do not commit deliberate mortal sin, examine examen 
their consciences every evening before retiring, and go to confes- '*^°"- 
sion every week, or fortnight) are your accounts, I say, in good 
order? If so, then you need not be afraid. You need not spend 
much time, nor be too scrupulous in examining your conscience 
before confession; if you happen to commit a mortal sin, there 
is no danger of your forgetting it. As to venial sins, you are not 
bound to tell them in confession; so that, even if you forget therai 
by the thousand, or deliberately refuse to mention them, that 
does not interfere with the validity of your confession; all you 
have to do is to mention some sin of your past life, for which 
you can excite yourself to sorrow, and your confession is valid, 
your account is approved of by the almighty God, who signs it 
by giving you the grace of the sacrament. There are many who 
make a great mistake and cause themselves unnecessary anxiety 
by the useless trouble they take in the examination of their con- 
sciences, so that they turn the confessional into a rack to torture 
their souls, and make the sweet burden of Jesus Christ insup- 
portable. These people, although they cannot remember having 
committed any mortal sin since their last confession (and they go 
regularly and frequently during the month), yet spend half and 
even whole hours sometimes thinking of what they will say; so 
that, when the day for confession comes, tbey have no time to 
hear a sermon, or to do any other good work. They spend the 
whole morning, almost, in preparing for confession; they pry 

* Qui potest et animam et corpus perdere In gehennam.— Matt. x. 28. 

M . ' 

That they 
may not 
omit a 
preat deal 
of other 

260 The Nature of the Examen of Conscience, 

into all their tlioiights, words, and notions; they make sins 
where there is no sin at all, and they doubt about everything: 
perhaps, they say, full of fear and anguish, I have sinned by 
tliat thought, by that word I let drop. They have a hundred 
perhapses, one after the other, and there is not the least founda- 
lion for one of them, wliile. the more they try to examine their 
consciences, the more disturbed they become; and at last they 
are obliged to acknowledge tliat, after having spent hours in all 
sorts of distractions and fancies, they are just as wise as before, 
and have not learned anytliiug about the state of their con- 

And what have they been doing all the time? To speak 
plainly, they have been frittering away their i)recious time to no 
purpose; and if they have nothing else to accuse themselves of, 
ii)^"works. ^^-^^y might well mention that in confession. Sometimes, by 
their over-anxiety, they lose an opportunity of hearing a sermon, 
which might do them good their whole lives long (on one oc- 
casion only Thomas was not present when his divine Master 
visited the Apostles; oh, what a great loss he suffered thereby! 
If he had been present with the others, he would not have sinned 
by incredulity), or tliey lose holy Mass, or hear it without atten- 
tion or devotion, and thus lose an opportunity of receiving 
many graces and merits. The most useful, necessary, and ex- 
cellent preparation for confession is a lively faith, a great hope 
and confidence in God, a true sorrow for sin, a firm purpose of 
amendment, a careful examination and selection of the means 
and manner in which one may lead a better life, lessen one's 
daily faults, serve God with more zeal, do more good works, and 
have more will to do them. Tliat is what most of the time 
should be spent in. But it is what they think of least of all; or 
else they make themselves incapable of it by their long and 
scrupulous examen of conscience, and when, after a great deal 
of trouble, they have learned off by heart some doubts suggested 
by their scruples and a few daily faults that they knew as well 
before as after the examen, then they strike their breasts a few 
times, make an act of contrition mechanically out of their 
prayer-book, and think that now everything is in proper order, 
their accounts with God are settled, and away they rush into the 
confessional. In olden times God commanded Moses to j)lace a 
number of looking-glasses around the foot of the laver that was 
used in the tabernacle: and they were to be women^s looking- 
glasses, too, that is, the clearest of all: "He made also the laver 

The Nature of the Examen of Conscience. 261 

a 1 

of brass, with the foot thereof of the mirrors of the women. 
The Lord wished those mirrors to be quite clean, so that the 
priests, when washing, could observe the least speck of dirt. 
AVhat would we have said if wo could have seen one of those priests 
covered with dirt, and spending a long time looking at him- 
self in the glass, but not doing anything to clean himself, and at 
last going away in the same state in which he came? We should 
certainly liave thought that the priest was not in his right sen- 
ses. And we may form the same opinion of those who spend a 
long time in contemplating and considering their daily faults, 
which are the spots that soil their souls, but take little or no 
trouble to wash them a^vay by being truly sorry for them. True 
contrition for sin, and a firm purpose to amend our lives and to 
lessen the number of our sins, should and must be our chief oc- 
cupation before confession. Another evil effect of that too pro- 
tracted examination of conscience is this, that the mind gets so 
wearied and fatigued, that there is very little devotion in the 
preparation for and thanksgiving after holy Communion, which 
should otherwise be the proper time to unite one's self with 
God, and to amass rich treasures of grace. You see now what 
they gain by their scrupulosity. It is sheer nonsense, I say, and 
I repeat what many holy and learned men have said before me, 
that they who conscientiously try to avoid all grievous sin, or 
who go to confession every week or fortnight, especially when, 
besides that, they are in the habit of making the evening examen 
of conscience, take far too much time, and act unreasonably, if 
they spend half an hour, oreveii a full quarter of an hour, in the 
examen before confession. Cabrena say^ distinctly that they 
should not spend longer than it takes to say Ihe psalm " Mise- 
rere;'' and if the persons are scrupulous, they should not take 
even that long. If you have committed a fully deliberate ve- 
nial sin, confess it if you wish, and have done with it; if you do 
not remember any sin, then you can confess your daily faults, 
into which you usually fall; but you can recollect them better 
while you are going to church, than by making them the 
subject of a scrupulous examen; and, as we have seen already, 
you should mention some sin of your former life that is known 
to your confessor, and awaken a heartfelt sorrow for it and renew 
your resolution against it. In that way you can employ your 
time far more profitably in the service of God, than by losing it 
in a useless examen of conscience. 
* Fecit et labrum aeneum cum basi sua de speculls mulierum.— Exod. xxxvlii.8. 


The con- 
trary 13 
required of 
and invet- 
erate sin- 

262 The Nature of the Exanien of Cotiscience, 

All! some will sa}', that is just what I want! If the time it 
takes to say a '* Miserere" is long enoiigli for the examen, then 
I have managed matters very well hitherto; I do not care to 
bother my head with long discussions of conscience before con- 
fession. But softly, friend; who are you who make that boast? 
Are you one of tliose of whom I have just spoken? If such be 
the case you are right enough, go on as you are going. But are 
you one of those whose accounts are not in order? I am speak- 
ing now of those tepid Christians, who sin by wholesale and lead 
careless lives, who pay little attention to their souls, go to con- 
fession one, two, three, or four times a year, and meanwhile 
commit sin whenever the occasion offers, without much hesitation ; 
allow full liberty to eyes, ears, tongues, hands, thoughts, and 
desires; seldom or never examine their conscieTices; easily forget 
their sins, and the number and circumstances of them; or, if 
they go to confession every month, commit sins that are of a 
peculiarly dangerous character, and are likely to be the occasion 
of more sin; such as a long-continued habit of this or that vice, 
in which they show no signs of amendment from one confession 
to another; sins of injustice, scandal, detraction, vindictiveness, 
and enmity; habitual drunkenness; continual dissensions between 
V married people or neighbors, all of which can be the occasion of 
many sins to others; an impure attachment to a certain person, 
which places one in the proximate occasion of sin, and gives rise 
to thousands of sinful thoughts, desires, words, and deeds, by day 
and night. Arc you, I say, one of those people? If so, then it 
alters the question altogether. You and such as you require a 
far longer time and much more care and diligence in examining 
your conscience before confession, in order to satisfy your obliga- 
tion and to square your accounts with God. Would you think 
a whole day too much to spend in bringing such an account 
as yours into order? But what do I say? A day? You will not 
even spend an hour in it; you sit in the church for a quarter of 
an hour or so, and go through the commandments of God in a 
kind of a wav, go into the confessional when your turn comes, 
rattle off a dozen mortal sins more or less, and then expect to get 
absolution. How is it possible for you, in such a short time, to 
have a clear knowledge of the many sins you have committed in 
thought, word, and deed? But if you have forgotten some and 
do not tell them, do you think that your forgetfulness will ex- 
cuse you before your Judge? I for my part do not think so, for 
your own laziness is in fault, and your confession and repentance 


The Nature of the Examen of Conscience, 263 

are worth nothing. Therefore you must spend more time in the 
examen of conscience, and must employ an amount of diligence 
proportionate to your state and occupation and to the nature of 

your sins. 

How is that to be done? God Himself tells us by the Prophet 
Jeremias: *'He shall sit solitary and hold his peace, because he 
hath taken it up upon himself.^' ' TJiat is, he will sit in soli- 
tude and silence, because he has raised himself in thought above 
himself. Mark the words, ''he shall sit solitary." You have, 
namely, to sit in judgment on yourself. When we think of our 
sins, self-love often makes us try to excuse them instead of con- 
demning them, so that we absolve ourselves before the priest 
gives us absolution, and endeavor to lessen the actual malice 
and gravity of our sins, attributing them to weakness or forget- 
fulness, or blaming others for them; and therefore we do not 
excite ourselves to proper sorrow for them. In the examen of 
conscience one must not act the part of advocate and patron for 
himself, but rather that of a just judge, who honestly and 
thoroughly examines the matter as it is in itself. '' He shall 
sit solitary; " that is, you must put away all other cares and oc- 
cupations, and be as if you were quite alone in the world with 
God, and had nothing else to do but to render Him the account 
of your conscience. " And hold his peace," that is, you must 
reduce to silence your evil inclinations, which will try to persuade 
you, by all sorts of false arguments, that this or that is not a sin, 
or at least not a grievous sin, a danger to be guarded against 
especially in things to which we are greatly attached; for in such 
matters we do not, as a rule, examine ourselves very strictly; we 
mention them only in a general way in confession, and, if we are 
in doubt, do not ask, lest we should have to give up something 
we are fond of doing, or do something we have a dislike'for. AYe 
act like those sick persons who do not allow the doctor to know 
anything of i;he hidden cancer or ulcer they are suffering from, 
lest they should have to bear the pain of having it cut or burnt 
out. But more of this on a future occasion. '' Because he hath 
taken it up upon himself:" finally, you must take up the yoke 
and raise yourself above yourself, by examining accurately into 
all you have been doing in the past. 

The penitent David brings forward another simile on this sub- 
ject: "And I meditated in the night with my own heart," he 

^ SedeWt solitarius et taceblt, quia levavtt super se.— Lament. III. 28. 

How these 
latter must 

And swcGT) 
out their 
like David. 

264 The Nature of the Exameii of Conscience, 

says, ** and I was exercised and I swept my spirit.'' ' "What do 
you do wdien you wisli to sweep out your room, so as to have it 
perfectly clean? You go through every corner of it; you put all 
the chairs and tables to one side, and move the furniture, so that 
no dust may remain concealed behind it. So must you act, sin- 
ner, if you wish to do sincere penance; enter the chamber of 
vour conscience; seek out all its hidden recesses; examine, as far 
as vou can, ail vour thono;hts, desires, words, and actions, to see 
if you can detect a mortal sin in any of them. Move all the 
cluiirs and tables; that is, consider the habits, business, and oc- 
cupations that engage your attention from morning till night, 
the places and houses you frequent, the company you keep, the 
obligations of your state and how you have fulfilled them, so as 
to see whether and how often 3'ou have sinned against God and 
your neighbor, and wdiat effects, injury, or scandal have followed 
from those sins, v*hich you foresaw and could easily have pre- 
vented. If, on account of a long- continued habit of a certain 
vice, or the occasions in which you are placed, you cannot find 
out the exact number of times you have sinned, then try to 
recollect how long you have been addicted to that vice, and how 
often you fell into sin probably during the day. Above all, as 
we have seen in the last sermon, call upon God for light and 
help; say, with the penitent David: " Who can understand 
sins? '' " 1 have sinned, Lord ; I have sinned grievously; I have 
sinned often; but how can I find out the number and nature of 
my sins, unless Thou comest to the assistance of my memory? 
" my God, enlighten my darkness.*'" Thou hast mimbered 
all my steps, and hast written down all the movements of my 
heart; enlighten, then, my understanding, that I may know all 
my sins, repent of them, confess them properly, and not commit 
them again. In that way you will make a good examen before 
confession, and even if a mortal sin should escape your memory^ 
or you cannot say the exact number of times you have sinned, 
your forgetfulness will then be inculpable, and v/ill not be at- 
tributed to you, so that you will be validly absolved from all 

your sins. 
Repentance my Lord and my God, would that I had always acted in that 
for previous . j ^^ confess mv o-reat carelessness in this respect. Per- 
respect and haps some of my confessions are written down m Iliy book as 

» Modltatiis sum nocte cum corde meo, et exercltabar, et scopebam spiritum meura.— Ps. 

Izxvi. 7. 

« Dellcla quis IntelliRit?— Ibid, xviii. 13. 

* Deas meus, iliumina tenebras meas.— Ibid, xvli.29. 

Candor in the Examen of Conscience. 


invalid, and Thou wilt bring them up against me hereafter p^-^^^^ 
Hercif;i God, pardon n^the sins I have left out in confession 
f I knew them now, I^iould willingly confess them with the 
utmost exactness. I repent of each and every one of them with 
my" whole heart, because I have thereby offended and despised 
Thee, my God, who art worthy of all love. Henceforward I will 
^ .it in iudgment on myself with more care and diligence, and, 
that I may not have to spend along time in exammmg my con- 
science I will watch more carefully over all my actions, I will go 
to^ confession frequently, at least every fortnight, nnilce my 
examen every evening before retiring to rest, ^^ f^^"^^ f\:^' Z. 
my .<.uard a^^ainst ever offending Thee by a wil ul anldeliberace 
mortal sin;^so that on the day of judgment I may be able to 
present my account in good order, and show that it has been 
properlv signed by Thee in all my confessions. Give me Ihj 
grace to this end, God of Goodness! Amen. 


1 Some when examining their consciences, make themselves 
nut' to be more guilty than they really are. 2. Many make 
themselves out to be more innocent than they really are. Both 
are wanting in candor towards their souls.- Preached on the 
twelfth Simday after Pentecost. 

Viso illo prater ivit.— Luke x. 31. 
'' Seeing him, passed by." 

To come at once to my subject. As the priest and the Levite 
acted in the parable of to-day's Gospel, so do many sinners act 
nowadavs when they wish to purify in the sacrament of pen- 
ance their souls, which are represented by the poor traveller who 
fell into the hands of robbei-s. That poor man could not heal 
himself; he had to trust to the charity of another; but the 
sinner must heal himself in the sacrament of penance with the 
help of God. Yet, I repeat, he acts sometimes like the hard- 


266 Candor in the Examen of Conscience. 

hearted priest in the Gospel, who, '' seeing him, passed by," 
and went on his way, without doing anything for the unfortu- 
nate man who was lying half dead and covered with wounds. 
It is especially when examining their consciences that sinners 
are guilty of imitating the conduct of the priest; they look at 
their consciences in a superficial manner, and pass over many 
mortal wounds, which they do not discover nor bring to light; 
and that because, as we have seen in the last sermon, they do 
not employ sufficient care and diligence. But there is another 
fault which is the occasion of many sins being passed over, 
namely, the want of candor in the examen of conscience. 

Plan of Disconrse. 
In this imy a fault is committed throngh excess lij those wlio, 
in the examen, look on themselves as more guilty than they really 
are : those J shall deal ivith in the first imrt. A still more grievous 
fault is committed through defect by those who look on themselves 
as more innocent than they really are. Tltese latter I shall deal 
with in the second part of to-day's instruction. 

Enlighten us by Thy grace, God, that we may correct both 
faults; we ask it of Thee through the intercession of Mary and 
of our holy guardian angels. ' 
Theexamen In a court of justice both the judge and the accuser must be on 
of con- their guard against' calumniating the accused. They must not 
^e^(!lndid"''^ impute to him, through falsehood and malice, a crime of which 
Explained jj^ is innoccut; nor must they accuse him on mere suspicion and 
by a simile. ^-^^^^^^^ sufficient proof; nor have recourse to false arguments 
to make a minor crime appear greater than it is, and deserving 
of death. For if mere suspicion, envy, falsehood, and malice 
were allowed to influence a judge, then every honest man might 
be arrested as a malefactor. The same care, candor, and honesty 
must be used in the examination of our consciences before con- 
fession; for the sinner is then his own accuser. You must 
therefore be on your guard, sinner, against wronging your- 
self, or accusing yourself falsely of sin, through fear, anxiety, 
unfounded doubts, or mere suspicion; nor must you make great 
sins of small ones, nor certain of doubtful ones, lest you should 
accuse yourself to your judge of crimes of which you are not 
guilty. '' I was exercised, and I swept my spirit," ' says David of 
himself, as we have seen in the last sermon. Mark the word, 
**8wept," my d^ar brethren; it means in the Hebrew, *' I looked 

* Ei^ercitabar, et scopebam spiritum meum.— Ps. Ixxvi. 7. 

Candor in the Examen of Conscience. 267 

at mvself," and its signification here is, -I looked at myself in 
my spirit." This simile is admirably suited to our subject; for 
when you are trying to recollect your sins, says St. Augustine 
your conscience must resemble a mirror, which represents all 
objects that are held before it as neither greater, nor smaller, nor 
more beautiful, nor more ugly than they are in themselves 
There are mirrors so made as to represent the object m different 
colors, although the latter may be snow-white; mirrors that are 
cut in such a way as to multiply the object, so that, when one 
looks into them, he sees himself twenty, thirty, or fifty times; 
mirrors that make the object much greater than it really is, so 
that, when you look at yourself in them, you appear to be a 
monster, your head is like a giant's, your eyebrows are like 
trees, your eves like {wo large globes; in a word, they make you 
appear a monster, although you are not in reality a whit altered in 
stature. It seems to me that many, especially pious and con- 
scientious Christians, stand before mirrors of that kind when 
they are making the examen of conscience before confession; 
their consciences are of such a nature that they make what is 
good appear bad, what is small, great, and what is only one, 
they multiply indefinitely in number. 

And, firstly, there are those who, when they have done any- 
thing,' no matter what, without the least thought or suspicion 
of ^\L and hear afterwards, in a sermon or elsewhere, that it is 
unlawful, become at once troubled and anxious. Alas, they 
sav to themselves, what have I been doing all this time? And I 
never even confessed it. What am I to do? Thus they at once 
condemn themselves of sin, although they are perfectly innocent, 
and consider themselves bound to declare it in their next 
confession. But what are you thinking of? You are guilty of 
calumniating and detracting yourself; for, even if what you did 
were the greatest sin in the world, you did it through inculpable 
ignorance, since you had no suspicion at the time that it was 
unlawful; and therefore you are not guilty, because what is 
done with a good conscience cannot be afterwards made bad by 
any subsequent knowledge one gains regarding it. Therefore it 
is not matter for confession. But if you are nevertheless bent 
on accusing yourself of it, which is quite unnecessary, and is a 
waste of precious time, then, at least, you ought to add (and you 
are bound in conscience to add) that you did it with a good 
conscience, so that the judge, who is sitting there in the place 
of the almighty God, may not look on you as guilty of a sin of 

They err 
who con- 
sider as sin- 
ful what 
they do 
through in- 

268 Candor in the Examen'of Conscience. 

And also 
they who, 
to be f?uilty 
of sins of 
whioh they 
are inno- 

Those who 
make, mor- 
tal out of 
venial sins. 


wliich you are innocent, and may not be deceived in his judg- 
ment about you by yourself. 

Again, there are scmiuilous people who are incapable of 
forming a sound opinion in those matters concerning which 
they are scrupulous. If, when preparing for confession, they 
look over the ten commandments, or the table of sins in their 
pra3'er-books, they think they are guilty of every one of them, 
although there is not the least foundation for a supposition of 
the kind; and, brooding over their fancied guilt, they fix it 
firmly in their imagination, until at last they look on it as an 
undoubted fact. A certain priest of our Society once told me 
that he had to do elsesvhere with a penitent of that kind, who 
was utterly unknown to him, and who spent quite an hour in 
the confessional telling the most horrible sins, amongst which 
were witchcraft, and sorcery, and hatred of God. ''A cold 
perspiration," said the priest, ''began to pour down my forehead, 
my hair stood on end with horror, and I was in a most frightful 
state of uncertainty as to how I was to deal with a penitent of 
that kind, and to dispose him to sincere sorrow for his sins, 
when, after a long time spent in questioning him, I found that 
the whole thing was mere imagination and the result of ground- 
less anxieties, so that my only diflficnlty then was to find in that 
most innocent soul sufficient matter for sacramental absolution." 

The third class consists of those who make mountains out of 
mole-hills, and mortal sins out of venial, certainties out of 
doubts, and even vices out of virtues. They look on all impure 
thoughts that come into their heads, even against their will, as 
so many mortal sins; every thought against faith, although 
they reject it at once, they put down immediately as a sin of 
heresy; a want of confidence in God they consider blasphemy; 
a suspicion against their neighbor, as a rash judgment, and 
every feeling of vexation in their daily crosses, as impatience 
and despair. The more they brood over those things, the more 
do they become persuaded that they are guilty; and as there is 
no counting the thoughts that come into their heads, so it seems 
to them that their sins are beyond numbering; like people who 
blind themselves by looking too long at the sun, they make them- 
selves almost incapable of looking at the matter in a reasonable 
light. Scrupulous people of that kind, since they cannot form 
a sound judgment of their own actions, must spend a very short 
time in the examen of conscience, and, according to the general 
teaching of theologians, should never accuse themselves of 

Candor in the Examen of Conscience. 


mortal sin, unless they are infallibly certain, without any 
previous examen of conscience, that they have really committed 
a wilful, deliberate, grievous sin; nay, so certain must they be 
of their guilt, that they must be prepared to swear to it, if 
necessary, before God and the priest. If they refuse to do that, 
all the mortal sins they accuse themselves of are mere imagina- 
tion. Therefore, whenever a doubt occurs to them as to 
whether they have done this or that, or consented to bad 
tlioughts or not, they can and must, without further examina- 
tion, at once conclude they are no guilty, and reject all their 
anxious doubts as mere nonsense, because the devil seeks, by 
means of those doubts, to dis-turb their minds and to prevent 
them from having real devotion. There is only one cure for 
such scrupulous people, and that is, that they always go to the 
one confessor, who must be an experienced man, and obey his 
directions blindly and humbly; if they refuse to do that there 
is no help for them in their misery. So much for those who, 
through excessive anxiety, make themselves out to be more 
guilty than they really are. But I fear that the number of the 
other class of penitents is much greater, namely, of those who, 
through carelessness of their salvation, when examining their 
consciences, look on themselves as more innocent than they 
really are in the sight of God, and thereby run the risk of never 
making a good confession, and so expose their souls to the 
greatest danger. These latter require a longer instruction and 
;xhortation ; and we shall devote to them the 

Second Part. 
Just as there are mirrors which make small things appear ^"lors 

, , , , ... make light 

great, and beautiful things ugly, so there are others made m ^^ ^eaiiy 
such a way as to cause things that are really large to appear giievous 
quite small, nor is the error in the thing itself, but in the glass 
which represents it, just as, when you look through the wrong 
end of a telescope, high mountains seem to be small hills, and 
lofty towers, mere pillars. Again, no matter how good and 
true a mirror is in itself, if you go too close to it, so as to 
breathe on it, you will darken it so that you will not be able to 
see anything. The consciences of many sinners, when they are 
preparing for confession, are like those mirrors; they look on 
grievous sins as venial, and on venial sins as no sins at all. 
They approach too close, sa that they see their sins only darkly ; 
that is, they argue too much with their consciences, seeking all 

They are, 

first, those 
who think 
nothing of 

and desires. 

Who excuse 
and do not 
sins to 
which they 
are at- 

2 70 Candor m the Examen of Conscience, 

sorts of pretexts to excuse themselves from certain sins, until at 
last they persuade tliemselves that there is no harm in them. 

And they are, first, those sinners whose consciences are cal- 
lous, so that they do not feel the sins they commit, nuless 
they do soiriething very bad in outward act. These people 
examine themselves only on the actions they do against the 
commandments ; they make nothing of thoughts and desires, 
of secret pleasure, of looks and words, nnd do not even count 
them as sins, although in reality they may be grievously sinful, 
especially in the matter of impurity, or hatred and revenge, even 
before any outward act is committed. But such people trouble 
themselves little about that. As long as they cannot satisfy 
their bad desires, either through want of the opportunity which 
they sought for, or because they have changed their intention, 
they consider that they are free from sin ; or else, if they do 
take notice of such thoughts, they seek to excuse themselves by 
saying that they had no bad intention. But what a lame ex- 
cuse that is ! To entertain impure thoughts for instance, delib- 
eratelv, and wilfullv to adhere to them, if only for an instant, 
knowing them to be evil, is already a mortal sin, no matter 
whether there is or is not the intention of doing an unlawful 
action. This is the undoubted teaching of all theologians. 

There are others whose evil inclinations and desires blindfold 
their consciences, so that they now and then cannot see or 
acknowledge their sins and the malice of them ; and this is 
especially the case in sins of habit, or in vices to which they are 
much attached. For instance, a man thinks of nothing all the 
day long but how he may make some temporal profit, so as to 
become rich ; he does not trouble himself to ask whether the 
means he makes use of to that end are lawful or not ; as long as 
he can make the profit, he is satisfied. Another centres his 
thoughts altogether on pleasure ; he is always trying to satisfy 
his sensuality, and he takes it for granted that whatever helps 
him to this end is lawful enough; he frequents all sorts of 
company without the least scruple ; he laughs, jokes, and 
amuses himself with persons of the opposite sex, whenever 
opportunity offers, and he allows full liberty to eyes, ears, hands, 
and tongue. Now in all this there is evidently danger of sins 
of all kinds ; nay, humanly speaking, it must be that he offends 
God in different ways. I will say nothing of the sins that are 
committed by those who have an impure attachment for each 
other. Nevertheless, when it comes to the examen of con- 

Candor in the Examen of Conscience, 


science before confession, those people close their eyes to alt 
these sins ; they do not look into the mirror properly, lest they 
should awaken the worm of conscience, and be disturbed in 
their pleasures by its gnawings ; they resemble those parents 
and heads of families who connive at the faults of their children 
and servants, and excuse themselves by saying that they do not 
wish to disturb the peace of the household. 

A little boy is sent to school to learn to read ; the school- Thauhey^ 
master speaks to him in a friendly manner, and begins to teach ^bugedto 
him the ABC. Look here, my boy, he says, this letter is A ; abstain 
now say it after me, A. The child looks at him and says ^^^^7 
nothing Come now, you are not dumb, continues the teacher, ^simile. 
you surely can pronounce the letter ? But the little fellow 
remains obstinately silent. The teacher then shows him all the 
fine pictures he will give him if he is a good boy; but to no 
purpose. At last he takes down the rod and holds it up before 
him. Come, he threatens, if you do not say the letter at once, 
I shall have to punish you. But neither kindness nor threats can 
induce the little boy to say a single letter. After school the 
other children ask him why he was so stubborn. Oh, he an- 
swers, if I said A, I should have to say B and C, and so it 
would go on, until I should have to learn grammar, syntax, and 
all the rest of it ; and there would be nothing but study for me 
for the next six, seven, or eight years; therefore I thought it 
better not to begin at all, and so put an end in time to all the 
bother. That is the way with those so-called penitents ; they 
will not sav A, lest they should have to say B. If I begin, they 
think, with this matter, and examine myself carefully on it, I 
shall find out a great many things that I have hitherto taken no 
notice of, my peace of mind will be gone, and I shall have to 
speak of them in confession ; perhaps my confessor will look on 
them as mortal sins, and if he does, I sliall have to give up 
what I have been so long accustomed to, and to make a change 
in mv mode of life that will not at all suit me. It is better 
therefore to put a stop to the matter at the very outset ; and 
after all, there is nothing so very bad in those things; I never 
really looked on them as grievous. Then they go to confession 
and tell other faults and sins, which they find not much diffi- 
culty in avoiding ; but they say nothing about those which ex- 
cited their anxiety. When they have done that three or four 
times, they begin to believe in earnest that there is nothing 
wron^^ in those actions. But how badly they will fare when the 


Candor in the Examen of Conscience. 

be wronjr. 

d'vine JucV^c Himself will examine their consciences and probe 

their hearts to the very depths I 
Those who The third class consists of those who, as it were, hang np a 
think that g,^j..,^|^ before their consciences, that thev may not see and have 

whai others \ . * i i i. i 

do cannot to acknov/ledL^c themselves guilty of certain sins. A doubt, and 
that, too, not always an unfounded one, occurs to tliem some- 
times, as to whether their mode of life, of dress, of behavior in 
companv, is quite in accordance with the law of Jesus Christ or 
not; and then the custom of the world comes in mostconve-. 
niently as a curtain with which to hide the whole affair, so as to 
keep their conscience qniet about it. '' They that fear the Lord," 
says the wise Ecclesiasticus, ''shall find just judgment, and 
shall kindle justice as a light. A sinful man shall flee reproof, 
and will find an excuse according to his will; ''' that is, according 
to the commentators, he will try to excuse what he wishes to 
excuse. But what excuse will he find? Will he try to compare 
himself to just and pious men? No; for their lives would con- 
demn his. lie compares himself rather with those who resemble 
himself, and who follow the vain customs of the world. The 
Gospel of Christ calls out to him often, and so do the holy 
Fathers with the doctrine they have left behind them, and 
preachers and confessors with their exhortations and instructions; 
even his own uneasy conscience calls out to him also, if he will 
only hear it, this or that is not lawful; it goes directly against 
the principles of the Gospel of Christ. And what answer does 
he make? Oh, he says, others do the same; it is the custom of 
the world I Tliis or that confessor does not look on it as a sin; 
other confessors say nothing whatever about it; there can be no 
great harm in it therefore. Thus they throw a veil over their 
consciences and, when examining themselves before confession, 
do not even think of looking into those matters, and they go 
with many others along the road which worldly vanity, in direct 
opposition to the Christian law, has made for them. But, you 
who act in this manner, wait till you come to the end of that 
road; you will find that it leads to where many like you have 
gone oiready. The door by which the chosen children of God 
enter heaven is, yon must know, very small and narrow; many, 
indeed, are called to enter thereat, but few will be admitted; 
** few there are that find it/" When your Judge shall demand 

1 Qui timent Doininnm, invenlent judicium Justum, et Justitlas quasi lumen accendent- 
Pec<?ator homo vltabit correptionem, et secundum voluntatem suam Inveniet compara- 
tlonem.— Ecclus. xxxil. :.*'.\ 21. 

« Pauci sunt qui iuveuiunt earn.— Matt. vli. 14. 

Candor in the Examen of Conscience. 273 

a strict account from you, bring forward your excuse, J' others 
did the same; it was the common custom in the world, and see 
what it will profit you. The question will then be, not what 
others have done, but what you yourself have done; not how 
others have lived, but how you yourself should have lived with 
others ''Thou shalt not follow the multitude to do evil; 
neither shalt thou yield in judgment to the opinion of the most 
part, to stray from the truth." ' Will you, then, lose your soul 
for the sake of others, who also lose theirs? 

There is another class of penitents who do not find out all their 
sins when preparing for confession, because they look only at 
one half of themselves in the glass, like one who holds a mirror 
so that he can see into it with only one eye; thus the half of his 
face is hidden from him, nor has he any idea of what it is like. 
They first examine how they have offended God in thought, word, 
or deed, since their last confession; but they never think of see- 
ing how they have fulfilled the duties and obligations of their 
state of life, so that they often leave out grievous sins, which they 
could and should have known. A pious and zealous priest, 
hearino-once the confession of a great emperor, said to him: "I 
have i^ow heard the sins of Charles; let me hear those of the 
emperor also." The same might be said to many when they are 
examinini? their conscience before confession. 

I have thought of my sins, says some superior, magistrate, or 
official. What do you mean? You have thought of the sins of 
the man ; but you must also think of those of the superior, and 
see how vou have fulfilled the duties bf your position ; whether 
you have^done justice to all, protected poor widows and orphans, 
punished notorious vices, and abolished abuses, as you are bound 
to do according to your office; whether you have always striven 
for the honor of God and the good of the community; whetiier 
you have trampled on human respect and spoken when you were 
bound to sneak; whether you have ever revealed what you were 
bound to keep secret. These and similar matters also belong to 
the examen of conscience and to the tribunal of penance. 

I have thought of my sins, says the lawyer. Very well; but 
you must also examine how you have performed the duties of 
your profession. Have you encouraged your clients to useless 
and unjust litigation, in order to make money out of them? 
Have you protracted unnecessarily a suit that you could have 

1 Non sequerls turbara ad faciendum malum, nee In judiclo plurlmorum acquiesces sen- 
tentise, ut a vero devies.— Exod- xxlli. 2. 

They who 
do not ex- 
on the 
duties of 
their state. 

Such as 

Lawyers. <^ 

ip P IWtJ ..^IL^y ^. 

^'AJtm^BJMW^ I^PlI 

2 74 Candor in the Examen of Conscience, 

settled at once with a few words of good advice? Have you 
accepted bribes from yonr opponent to the damage of your 
chent's interests; or, when a bribe was not offered yon, have you 
taken no interest in liis just case? Have you undertaken so many 
Ccises that you could not devote proper attention to any of 
them, or liave you advised the parties to compromise after having 
known for certain that one of them had lost his case? Have vou 
the knowledge and capacity requisite to your profession? All 
these things, as well as the question of making restitution for 
the harm you have perhaps done to others, are matters for con- 
sboDkeep- j jjj^^.g thought of all the sins I committed since my last con- 

ers and ^ 

tradesmen, fession, says the merchant and shop-keeper. Yes? Aiul have 
vou also examined how vou have conducted your business? Are 
your weights and measures just? Have you sold old and dam- 
aged goods at a high price to the inexperienced, as if they were 
new and uninjured? Have you had recourse to lies and false 
oaths in order to sell your goods? All these things must be 
mentioned in confession, as well as the time and the number of 
times, how often and how long you have been practising them. 
I have thought of my sins, says a tradesman. HaAe you done 
honestly and properly the work entrusted to you? Have you 
asked for more material than was necessary to complete the 
work; or kept any considerable amount of what was over with- 
out the knowledge and consent of the owner? Have you bought 
from children or servants things that you might easily know 
were stolen. Have you allowed your workmen to work on Sun- 
days and holydays, when there was no necessity? Have you 
thought of all this before confession? 

Husbands, wives, fathers, and mothers of families, you have 
Gnished your examen of conscience, have you not? But I am 
afraid that many sins, which you should have thought of first of 
all, have escaped your memories. How have yon observed the 
mutual obligations of your state, according to the exhortation 
of St. Paul? What care have you bestowed on the spiritual wel- 
fare of those subject to you? How have you looked after your 
children? Are you training them properly, and sending them 
to catechism and to sermons? Are you watchful over all their 
actions, so that you know where they go, whom they speak to, 
what company they keep, how they live, and whether they fear 
and love God? What example do you give them? What do 
they see in you and hear from you during the day? How do 

people and 
beads of 

Candor in the Examen of Conscience, 27s 

you look after their temporal wants? Do you squander in drink- 
ing or gambling, in useless entertainments, or in dressing above 
your state, what you should spend on them? Do you keej3 them 
busy at some work betittiiig their state, or do. you allow them to 
spend the day in idleness? Do you permit them to go to par- 
ties in which their precious souls can easily be exposed to dan- 
ger*^ Do you give proper food and wages to your servants and 
laborers? All these things belong to the examen of conscience. 
But the obligations of particular states of life are seldom 
brouo-ht before the mirror; the sins committed against them are 
hidden in the depths of conscience; they are rarely made the . 
subject of serious cousideration, and therefore the accusation in 
confession is not complete. , ^THosewho 

Further, people, generally speaking, examme the sins they ^^ ^^^ ^^_ 
have committed themselves. But wait a while, before you ami^^^^^^^^^ 
declare them in confessiou. What about the sms of others ^-^^^^^^ 
which you have occasioned or might have occasioned by impure to commit, 
conversation, by indecent signs and laughter, by immodesty in 
dress, by keeping improper pictures or statues in your houses or 
gardens, and thus running the risk of exciting impure desires 
and thoughts in the minds of those who see them; by selling, 
lendincr, or borrowing impure books and love-tales, that are 
liable "to put bad thoughts into the minds of those who read 
them; and bv any immodesty in dress, such as one has often to 
complain of i^mg compelled to witness in the streets; nay, there 
are mothers who even suckle their children in public (what can 
the passers-by think of them?); by urging others to excessive 
drinkino- by giving bad advice or encouraging others to sm; by 
doing a^sinful act in presence of others; by cursing or swearing 
before children or servants and so teaching them that hellish 
2anguao-e? These are the sins from which the Prophet David 
so often praved to be delivered: "From those," the sins -of 
others spare Thy servant." ' When the Germans in olden times 
had conquered the Hungarians, and were cutting down their 
enemies remorselessly, the trumpeters and drummers began to 
cry out, why do you kill us? we have done nothing to harm 
vou- we have only blown our trumpets, or beaten our drums. 
Surely our breath cannot have hurt you? We have not drawn 
the sword against any of you. Ko matter, was the answer of 
the victors; you deserve death more than any of the others, 
because your music encouraged them to fight, so that you have 

1 Ab alienis parce servo tuo.— Ps. xviii. 14. 

■;^i*pi w il^ju wy^ ipjijuplun 

Those who 
pay no at- 
tention to 
sins of 
omission . 

many make 
had confes- 
ill the ex- 
araen of 

276 Cajidor in the Exa^nen 0/ Co?iscience. 

sharpened their swords and spears against lis. All who give 
scandal or occasion to sin are the drnnnnei's and t mm peters of 
hell; bnt how few there arc who think of this wlien thev are 
prepariii.o^'for confession! I have do!io no harm, tliev sav. 
Yes; yon liave done no Inirin to yourself, 1 i^rant; bnt how 
many sins liave yon nor caiised otiiers to commit, and thus 
waged wiir against God by their mean.s? All these are on yonr 
conscience, and yon mnst confess them if you fire in earnest 
about your conversion. 

Finally, it is not enouMi to examine vourself on what von 
yourself have done to offend God, and on what yon have caused 
others to do; yon mnst not forget also to give an account of 
what you have left undone. For instance, von could and 
should have given your neighbor hci-e and there a friendly 
warning, have kept him away from evil, urged him to good, or 
prevented him from doing or saying something sinful; but yon 
have not done so. Yon had now and then an opportunity of 
saluting in a friendly manner or doing a service to a person who 
has injured you, but through hatred you did not avail yourself 
of it. You could have paid your debts at the proper time, or 
have given your laborers the wages due to them, or have made 
restitution of ill-gotten goods; but von did not do so. You might 
have given alms to the poor and needy according to your means, 
and have practised the works of Christian cJiarity towards your 
neighbor; but you neglected doing so through avarice or sloth. 
These are the omissions that Jesus Christ will bring forward, on 
that last terrible day, against the wicked: " For I was hungry, 
and yon gave Me not to eat"' "^ 

Ah, my dear brethren, what a fearful number of sins thus 
remains hidden in the conscience, because, through carelessness 
and culpable ignorance, people wish to know nothing about them I 
They look in the glass with but one eye. To many penitents 
one might say with truth what a doctor once said to a young 
man who showed him a small sore on his finger, and complained 
of the pain it caused him; ah, my friend, said the doctor, who 
knew by the color and the pulse of his patient that the latter 
was suffering from a dangerous illness, the evil is not in your 
finger alone; the chief cause of your suffering is hidden from 
you; your blood must be purified and your stomach put into 
order, or else we shall soon have to carry you to the grave. In 
the same way, there are many who come to the spiritual phy. 

* Esurivl enim, et non dedistis mihi manducare.— Matt. xxv. 42. 

Candor in the Examen of Conscience, 277 

sician and show him some trifling sores that trouble them; 
that is, they confess merely their daily faults. But if the 
priest could see into their consciences, might he not say to each 
of them, poor soul, your evil does not consist merely in what 
you have told me; what you have still kept back, and concealed 
from yourself, will be the cause of eternal death to you, unless 
you repent of and confess it. " Son of man," said the Lord to 
the Prophet Ezechiel, ^ ^ dig iu the wall." ' ^* Go in and see the 
wicked abominations which they commit here.'' ' My child, the 
priest might say, dig in the wall, examine the hidden recesses of 
your conscience, and there you will find a mass of abominations 
that you have not wished to see hitherto. You will see many 
sins of yonr own, which have been hitherto concealed from . 
your eyes by an inordinate love of creatures, by your evil desires, 
and by all sorts of empty pretexts and excuses. You will see 
many sins of which you were the occasion to othei-s by the scan- 
dal you gave them. You will see many omissions of the good 
that you were bound to do. Do you think, perhaps, that in the 
Day of Judgment you will be able to justify yourself from all 
these by saying, I have not known anything about those sins; 
I did not think that this or that was a grievous sin; I did not 
look on it as necessary to examine my conscience about those 
things? You did not wish to know, is the answer your Judge 
will give you; you did not wish to acknowledge your misdeeds; 
you have "not examined your conscience with candor; 3'Our ig- 
norance was wilful and culpable; true, your confessor, either 
because he knew nothing of your secret transgressions, or had 
not the courage to warn you about them, has often pronounced 
over you the words, "■ I absolve thee from tliy sins;" but I, who 
know the secrets of the heart, and search the reins, I said at the 
time, " I condemn you on account of your sins." 

But, my dear brethren, before it comes to that with us, let us conclusion 
make a better resolution; let us in future, Avhenever we go to ^j^^'^^'"^"' 
confession, act with candor in the examen of conscience. What examine 
is the advantage of deceiving ourselves in a matter which so ^l^^^^'^.^^ 
closely concerns our eternal salvation? What is the good of candor 
trvinffto make ourselves appear more innocent than we really ^^f^'-e con. 
are in the sight of God? Let each one, says St. Gregory, when 
he is examining his conscience, act as if he were making an 
inquiry against a stranger, nay, against his greatest enemy; so 

» Fill hdmlnis, fode parietem.— Ezech. viii. 8. 

2 Ingredere, et vide, abominationes pessimas, quas isti faciuDt hie— Ibid. 9. 

-. - A- --,--. V ^-1 ..■--.s:--.j'j*at^^j 


278 Candor in the Ex amen of Conscience. 

that he may pass over nothing, and excuse nothing that he can 
with truth bring against himself. Ah, God of goodness and 
mercy, I say again, for my part, with Thy penitent servant 
David: ''The sins of my youth and my ignorances do not 
remember. '' * '' From my secret ones cleanse me, Lord, and 
from those of others spare thy servant/'' Pardon the sins of 
which I have in any way been the occasion by scandal-giving. 
*' Send forth Thy light and Thy truth; " ' enlighten me with Tliy 
light and in Thy truth, that I may know all the sins of my past 
life, repent of them with all my heart, confess them properly, 
do penance for them, avoid them in future, and love, praise, 
and serve Thee with all the greater fervor. Amen. 

» Dellcta juventutis meae et ignorantias mens ne memlnerls.-Ps. xxiv. T. 
2 Ab occultis meis niuuda me, et ab alienis parce sorvo tuo.-lbid. xviii. 13, 14. 
» Emitte lucem tuam et veritatem tuam. -Ibid. xlil. 3. 

-III miri- 1 I - mr» miTt ■MiiiiM 

r^- •h'^iwMi»r«irT^'^'^''"- -'^-^"^■'^ 



1. The most necessary part of the sacrament of penance is 
true sorrow for sin. 2. In what this sorrow consists.-Preac^ecf 
on the thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost. 

Ite, ostendits vos sacerdotibus. —Liike xvii. 14. 
'' Go, show yourselves to the priests." 

Sinners, there is no other means for you to clean your souls, 
if they are affected with leprosy, that is, with the stain of mor- 
tal sin, and to receive forgiveness from the God whom you have 
offended, but to '' show yourselves to the priests," to examine 
your consciences with candor, and to confess your sins fully. 
But wait a little; after all, the examen of conscience and the 
confession of one's sins are not enough; that which is chiefly re- 
quired before confession is to have a true sorrow for sin, and it 
is that in which most people are wanting. This I shall now 
undertake to explain, and I say, without further preamble, 

Plan of Discourse. 
T/ie most necessary part of the sacrament of penance is true 
sorroiv for sin; this I shall show in the first and longer part. In 
what tiiis sorroto co7isists, I shall exjjlain in the second part. 

Mary, refuge of sinners, and you, holy guardian angels, 
you know that I and all your children cannot give you greater 
pleasure than wl)en we repent of our sins, so that we may love 



Sorrow for 
sin is a con- 
dition of 
required by 

And most 
justly, too. 

280 Necessity and Nature of Soi'row for Sifi. 

yon with pure hearts; obtain for us, then, from God the grace 
to do that. 

There is no doubt that that means is the most necessary to a 
given end, which God requires to that end; which is alone 
capable of attaining that end; without which all other means 
are useless, find which cannot bo replaced by any other means. 
Such, my de;ir brethren, is to him who has sinned grievously 
the necessity of true sorrow, in order that he may obtain for- 
giveness and save his soul. For, m the first i^lace, even little 
children learning the catechism know tliat the chief part of the 
sacrament of penance is sorrow for sin. God is the Lord of all 
His graces, which He distributes as He pleases; now He has 
determined not to foi'give any one his sins, under any circum- 
stances, unless he is truly sorry for them. '' This," says Tertul- 
lian, "is the price for which God is willing to give us pardon.''' 
And that, too, with perfect justice; for, as theologians teach 
witii St. Thomas, *' mortal sin is a turning away from the Crea- 
tor, and a turning towards creatures, " ' by which, namely, man, 
of his own free will, abandons God, whose grace and friendship 
he despises, and, for the sake of some brutal lust, or temporal 
gain, or vain honor, attaches hi^ heart to creatures. This is 
what the Lord complains of by the Prophet Jeremias: *'Thus 
saith the Lord: What iniquity have your fathers found in Me, 
that they are gone far from ^^[e, and have walked after vanity? 
. . . They have turned their back on Me and not their face."' 
Therefore, in order to be freed from sin and to recover the 
grace and friendship of God, the man who has been guilty of 
such wickedness and presumption must turn round the other 
wav, that is, bv another act of his free will, he must abandon 
creatures and turn towards his Creator; that is what he does 
when he is sorrv for his sins. 

And what less could God require as an atonement for the in- 
sult offered Him, tlian that he by whom He has been olTended 
and abandoned should at least feel grieved and sorry for his 
crime? For not to repent of the insult offered would be in fact 
a fresh act of contempt towards the grace of God, and an evi- 
dent sign that no value is attached to it, inasmuch as the loss 
of it does not even cause regret. It is acting towards God as if 

» Hoc pretio nobis Deus venlr>m adjicere instltuit.— Tertull. de posnl. 

' Est aversio a Creatore, et conversio ad creaturani. 

» Hcec dkit Uomlnns : quid Invenerunt paires vestri in me injqultatls, quia elonpuverunt 
a me, et ambulavenint post vanitatem? . . . verterunt ad me terftum, et non faclem.— Jerem. 
11. 5, 27. 

Necessity and Nature of Sorrow for Sin. 2 8 1 

I were to say to a great lord whom I have offended, forgi^ve me 
for what I have done; I am not sorry for it, nor do I make any 
promise that I will not do it again. Li that way I should pro- 
voke the lord to be still more embittered agamst me, nistead ot 
receivino- me again into his favor. When the emperor Hadrian 
heard that Tavianus, who had fallen into disgrace with him, 
was not disturbed thereat, and chowed little regret for it, he 
caused him to be at once beheaded for despising tlic emperoi s 
favor It is, then, an undoubted fact that God will not pardon 
«in either in or out of the sacrament of penance, unless the 
siniier is sorry for what he has done, and that it would not even 
be becoming His divine Majesty to do so. - 

Secoiidly,^sorrow for sin, when it arises from a perfect love o± 
God is such a powerful means of obtaining forgiveness that it at 
once' iiistifies the sinner, even without any other means, anci 
makes him a friend of God. In the Old Testament this perfect 
sorrow was the only means of obtaining pardon for one who had 
sinned mortally. In the New Law, if I have no opportunity of 
confession, either through want of a priest, or because I am in 
dano-er of death, if I make an act of perfect contrition, I am 
agai^^i a friend of God, even if I were the greatest sinner in the 
world, and the kingdom of heaven belongs to me as my lawful 
inheritance. Nor is any examen of conscience or of the num- 
ber and nature of mv sins required for this; it is enough if I am 
heartily sorry, from a motive of perfect charity, for having of- 
fended God. Even when I have an opportunity of confessing my 
sins and intend availing myself of it, the moment I make this 
act of perfect sorrow, before I receive absolution, or tell my sins 
to the priest, or even examine my conscience, all my sins are at 
once forcriven, althoujrh the obligation of confessing those sms 
and recerving sacramental absolution for them still remains, be- 
cause the law of God requires it. From this alone it is evident 
that it is the most necessary condition to ensure forgiveness; for, 
if all other means fail, it alone has the power of fully reconcil- 
ing me to God. .^^. xi, ^ ^ 
Thirdly, the same necessity is. still more evident from the fact 
that without this sorrow all other means are useless, as far as 
the obtaining pardon for sin is concerned. You may have spent 
a whole year in examining your conscience, and searching out 
its most iiidden recesses, and writing out all your sins with their 
number nature, and circumstances; you may have confessed all 
those sins with the greatest candor and humility, and with great 

Perfect sor- 

the sinner 
with God, 
although all 
other means 
are want- 


sorrow, all 
other means 
together are 

■'•"•" iinii~T 


282 Necessity and Nature of Sorrow for Sin, 

shame and mortification on your part, to a most learned, ex- 
perienced, and pious priest; lie may have given you sacramental 
absolution and all imaginable indulgences as well that it is in 
his power to give; you may have performed your penance, and 
done other voluntary penitential works besides; you may have, 
moreover, the earnest purpose of never again offending God by 
mortal sin during your whole life; but if true sorrow alone is 
wanting, or if the sorrow you have is not as it should be, then 
all your labor is in vain; not one of your sins is forgiven; you 
are not absolved from them; you are as you were before, a child 
of reprobation, an object of the divine malediction. Even the 
baptism of water, although it has the power of cleansing the 
soul from all stain of sin, and all punishment due to sin, so that, 
if one died immediately after having received it, he would go at 
once to heaven, even that cannot help an adult who has sinned 
grievously to obtain forgiveness, unless he first hates and de- 
tests his sins by an act of at least imperfect sorrow; such is the 
teaching of the Council of Trent. Therefore, my dear brethren, 
neither examen of conscience, nor confession, nor absolution, 
nor satisfaction, nor penance, nor holy baptism itself in the 
case of an adult, nor all the other means that God has appointed 
for the forgiveness of sin, are of the least use, if true sorrow 
for sin is wanting. 
All the Finally, its indispensable necessity for the sinner is evident 

of penance ^"^^"^ the fact that there is nothing which can replace it or do 
may be re- its work. If, through inexperience, or inculpable ignorance, 
one has not properly examined his conscience, so that he has 
forgotten many grievous sins, provided he has otherwise done 
his best according to his ability, his sins will nevertheless be 
forgiven, for the goodness of God will take his inexperience and 
ignorance into consideration, and will make good hi.s defects. 
Again, if through the same causes he has not confessed all his 
sins, without any fault on his part, provided he has otherwise 
done his best to prepare for confession, his sins will be forgiven 
him, the absolution he receives will be valid, for his ignorance 
excuses him, and he is bound to nothing further than to confess 
those sins the next time he goes to confession,, if he remembers 
them. If he has not received absolution validly, either because 
the priest is not approved by ecclesiastical authority for hearing 
confessions, or because the priest, through wickedness, has not 
had the proper intention when giving absolution, nevertheless, 
if he has a perfect sorrow for his sins, God Himself will absolve 

placed by 



Necessity and Nature of Sorrow for Sin. 283 • 

him ; or else, if his sorrow is imperfect, he can be absolved by 
another priest, the next time he goes to confession. If he has 
forgotten his penance, or has not been able to perform it, he is 
no worse for that ; the guilt of sin is taken away from his soul ; 
for his incapacity excuses him. Nay, if through weakness or 
illness one cannot examine his conscience, nor declare his sins in 
confession, nor fulfil the penance enjoined him, provided he 
has the will to confess, even by signs, and has at the same time 
a true sorrow for sin, he can receive absolution, and his siVis will 
be forgiven. Thus all these parts of the sacrament of penance 
may be supplied in some way or other, if in certain circum- 
stances any of them is wanting. 

But with regard to sorrow for sin the matter is quite different. ButnothinK 

° ,,.,,.,, . , . can replace 

It is so absolutely necessary, that without it not a single sm trueson-ow, 

will be forgiven. If one who has committed a mortal sin is so if "is 

. ,.. i,.T»,-i !•• wanting. 

simple as to believe that it is enough for him to declare his sins 

in confession, even if he has never heard anything of sorrow for 
sin, and knows not how to excite it, his ignorance, although he 
cannot help it, does not excuse him ; he is in the state of sin, 
and he remains in it. There is another who would willingly 
make an act of sorrow, but he cannot, on account of weakness 
and inability ; his illness does not excuse him, and if he dies 
without that sorrow, although he may have received a thousand 
absolutions, he will be lost forever, and there is no help for 
him. If I have done my best to repent of my sins, and am of 
the opinion that I am really sorry for them (although, when a 
person does his best, the grace of true repentance will never be 
wanting to him), but if in reality I have not a true sorrow, my 
opinion will not save me; my sins will not be forgiven. If my 
confessor tries to encourage me by assuring me that I have a 
proper sorrow, and says that he will take my sins on himself if 
niv sorrow is not a true one, the assurances of my confessor, even 
if he were the Pope himself, are of no use to me; I am still in 
the state of sin. Thus there is neither inexperience, nor igno- 
rance, nor weakness, nor illness, nor indulgence, nor jubilee, nor 
priestly absolution, nor anything in the world that can dispense 
mc from having true sorrow for my sins, or replace it, if it is 
wanting. If I have offended God by mortal sin, and die with- 
out truly repenting of it, whether wilfully, or through incul- 
pable ignorance, or through some cause that I could not prevent, 
I am lost forever, not, indeed, on account of not having true 
sorrow for my sin, but on account of the sin I have committed 



Hence it is 
of tbe ut- 

Sbowu by 

And should 
be made 
the object 
of our 

284 Necessity and Natiux cf Sonvw for Sin. 

and have not aniuilled by true repentance (unless I make aii act 
of perfect cliarity, for, as theologians teach, that includes a 
perfect sorrow for siii;, and therefore is able to justify the sinner 
even outside the sticrament of penance). In the same way, a 
child who dies without being baptized before it comes to the 
use of reason cannot go to heaven, even if an attempt was made 
to administer baptism, but the person, witliout any fault of 
his, used white wine instead of water; that is a mistake that 
neither the child nor the person who wished to baptize it could 
help; and yet, as the necessary baptism is wanting, the child 
cannot liave any share in the happiness of heaven. 

A certain cardinal was lying on his death-bed, and the Pope 
sent word to him that he would come and give him his apostolic 
benediction and a plenary indul gencein his last moments. *' I 
am very grateful to your Holiness," answered the dying man, 
'' for such an unmerited favor; but, alas, how much more pleasing 
and profitable it would bo for me if you could also assure me 
that I have a true sorrow for my sins I '' Truly, that was a sen- 
sible wish! If one coidd have given that sorrow to that unfor- 
tunate man who appeared after death to one of his former 
friends, he would have been able to give a better account of 
himself. His friend asked him how his soul fared in eternity. 
*^ Woe to me," was his answer, *^ I am in hell! " *' But how can 
that be," asked the other, terror-striken; "you made a good 
confession before you died?" " Yes," was the answer, "that is 
true; I declared all my sins in confession." " And the priest gave 
you absolution?" "Yes, that is also true." "And you re- 
ceived holy Communion and extreme unction afterwards?" 
" Yes." " And then there were people there to pray with you 
continually, and to commend your soul into the hands of God 
on its departure out of this life?" "Yes." "And up to the 
very last moment almost vou kissed the crucifix with tlie crreatest 
devotion?" " Yes, all that was done." "And how, then, does 
it happen that you are in hell?" "Alas," cried out the un- 
happy soul, "the most necessary thing of all was wanting to me. 
I had not true sorrow for my sins, and without that all else 
that was done for me was of no avail; I am lost forever on 
account of the mortal sins I committed." 

From this, my dear brethren, we can conclude that our greatest 
care and diligence, when going to confession, should be devoted 
to exciting in ourselves a true sorrow and repentance for sin, even 
when we have nothing but venial sins and daily shortcomings 

Necessity and Nature of Sorrow for Sin, 285 

to accuse ourselves of. If we have not a mortal sin on our con- care before 
science, it would be better for us to go to holy Communion co^^^sion. 
without confession, than to confess without true sorrow. For, 
as I have often said already, I am never bound to confess venial 
sins; but if, nevertheless, I wish to confess them (and it is a good 
and useful thing to do) and have nothing else but venial sins, 
then I must necessarily make an act of true sorrow for all, or 
for one at least, otherwise I profane the holy sacrament, and the 
absolution I receive is invalid, on account of the want of one of 
the necessary parts of the sacrament. Hence it may be that of 
two persons who go to confession one may come out justified, 
although his conscience was burdened with a hundred mortal 
sins, because he has prepared properly for confession and has 
had a true sorrow for his sins, while the other, who was before 
pious and just, and had only venial sins to confess, comes out in 
the state of mortal sin, because he was wanting in true contri- 
tion; that is to say, if he is wanting in it through his own fault; 
for it is another thing if he believes in good faith that he has 
the necessary dispositions for the sacrament. Therefore I re- 
peat the advice I have often given before, namely, that they who 
go frequently to confession and have nothing to accuse them- 
selves of but venial sins and daily faults would do well to con- 
fess in general terms some sin of their past lives, for which they 
can easily make an act of contrition, so as not to expose the 
sacrament to the danger of being invalid ly received. 

But alas, that true sorrow and repentance for sin, which is most But it is 
of all required in order to obtain forgiveness of sin, is also un- ^^^eiaat 
fortunately that in which most penitents are wantingi Is not many peo- 
that the case, my dear brethren? How many are there not who pi*^ think 
imagine that, whe'n they have examined their consciences accurate- 
ly and declared all their sins in confession, they have done quite 
enough? They have not the least doubt that their confessions 
are good; but they hardly think of having the proper sorrow for 
sin, their only an;^iety being not to leave out anything in con- 
fession. Again, you will find hundreds who are anxious and 
troubled after confession; and why? Ah, they think, have I 
left out anvthinof? I wish I could be certain that I have told all 
my sins. But amonsfst the hundreds vou will hardly find one 
who will be scrupulous as to whether he has had the proper sor- 
row for sin. It is a good thing to be careful in the exam en of 
conscience, and one is bound to be so according to one's circum- 
stances; it is also good and necessary to declare all one's grievous 

<1 ■iL1T»^.iPJiJft ■.■■JSV 


' "JIFTTfT.' *r=TTS%Jrr ■ 

Nay, many 
show by the 
way they 
live that 
they do not 
believe in 
the neces- 
sity of sor- 
row for sin 
In confes- 

286 Necessity and Nature of Sorroiv for Sin, 

sins, and not to conceal any of them wilfully; but that is not 
enough; the principal requisite for a good confession is to have 
true contrition for sin, and if this is wanting, the confession is 
worthless. There are others, again, who, when they have finished 
with the examen of conscience, and their turn has not yet come 
to enter the confessional, spend i\^^ time while they are waiting 
in saving the rosarv, or in reading their prayer-books; these 
pravers are excellent in their way, but it is not the proper time 
for^hem when one should be trying to excite himself to sorrow 

for his sins. . ^ v* ^ 

I will say nothing of those Christians whose mode of life sut- 
ficientlv declares that they do not believe in the necessity of 
sorrow for sin, and who think that all they have to do is to tell 
their sins to the priest in order to be forgiven. For when they 
are assailed bv temptation, and the opportunity is offered them, 
they fall into sin head foremost, without scruple or fear, and 
then say to others, or at least think to themselves, after all, 
what harm is there in what I have done? 1 can tell it in con- 
fession, and it will be all right. Yes, I readily believe that, if 
confession alone were required, one who has little fear of bod 
might be more daring in offending Ilim; but confession is not 
enough; you must also detest your sins more than all other 
ima-inable evils. Do you believe that? If you do, is it not a 
foolish thing for you to think or say, I will satisfy my passion 
now; I will sav or do this sinful thing, and then I can confess it 
afterwards^ That is just as senseless as if I were to say, there 
are many clever doctors in this town who can heal all kinds of 
wounds; I will therefore throw myself down from the top of a 
hi-h wall, and break mv limbs to pieces; I shall be sorry for 
havin- done so afterwards, but I can go to one of those doctors 
and h^'e will cure me. The fact is, you do not beheve m the 
necessity of true contrition for your sins, which you commit so 
freely or else you do not understand what is meant by this con- 
trition, so that; if you always confess in that way, you will never 
have a true sorrow and repentance. For my part, my dear 
brethren, out of a hundred bad confessions, I believe that ninety- 
nine are bad through want of true sorrow; for he who really re- 
pents of his sins will surely not be wanting in the other parts 
of the sacrament of penance. And this is almost the only thing 
that makes the duty of a confessor troublesome and difficult, 
namely, his anxiety that his penitent should show signs of ade- 
quate sorrow for his sins. If he can be, humanly speaking, cei-tam 

Necessity and Nature of Sorrow for Sin, 287 

of this, he is not afraid of having to deal with any number of 
mortal sins, because his penitent has already the disposition that 
is most necessary in order to receive the sacrament worthily. 
But, some will think, if true sorrow is then so necessary, in what 
does it consist, so that we may be more careful regarding it in 
future? This question I shall briefly answer in the 

Second Part. 

To repent of a thing, and to be sorry for it, may be two quite To repent of 
different things. We are sorry when anything disagreeable to be sorry 
happens to us, although we may not be to blame for it and'o^itare 
could not have prevented it; for instance, through a decree of ^jji^gs. 
divine Providence, a motherloses by death her only beloved son. 
She cannot help the loss; she would willingly have kept her 
child alive if it were possible; it is the will and the decree of 
God, for her own and her child's greater good, that he should die; 
and yet she is sorry and feels such grief that her eyes are filled 
with tears, her heart with sighs, her mouth with complaints. A 
merchant has a large sum of money stolen from him by night, 
although he is very careful in looking after it; the loss cannot be 
attributed to any fault of his; 3^et he feels it very sorely, and is 
so sorry for it that he is almost driven to the verge of despera- 
tion. In both these cases there is sorrow, but in neither, repent- 
ance, because neither of these persons has done anything to 
repent of. On the other hand, if the mother, in a fit of passion, 
beats her child so severely, to make it stop crying, that it loses 
its breath and dies; or if the merchant does not go to the trouble 
of locking up his store at night, although he is well aware that 
there is danger of some one stealing his money, then, indeed, the 
mother and the merchant can have both sorrow and repentance. 
The one is sorrv for the death of her child, the other, for the loss 
he has suffered, and both rei)ent of their guilt; the mother re- 
pents of having beaten her child so severely, and the merchant 
repents of his carelessness in looking after his money; for both 
could have avoided, if thev had wished, tlie misfortune that be- 
fell them. Ah, they say then, would that I had not done so! 
Would that I had not beaten my child so severely! Would that 
I had locked up my money more securely! I repent sincerely of 
what I have done! 

What I have now said of natural sorrow and repentance is to super- 
be understood, due proportion being observed, of supernatural °^^J^ ^' 
sorrow and repentance also. " Contrition," says the Council of 

does not 
consist In 
words or 

288 'Necessity and Nature of Sorrow for Sin. 

Trent, " is the sorrow of the mind which detests its sins and 
aspires to a better life."' Mark the words, ** sorrow of the 
mind," or of the soul. Hence true contrition docs not consist 
in the words that are spoken by the mouth, or read out of a 
prayer-hook, no matter liow earnest and expressive they are; nor 
does it consist in sighs or tears, nor in the sadness that is experi- 
enced in the sensitive part of the soul. These outward manifes- 
tations of grief are good and praiseworthy; they are sometimes the 
effect of a supernatural sorrow; but real contrition does not con- 
sist in them, nor are they always infallible signs of it; otherwise 
the wicked king Antioohus, the traitor Judas, and others like 
them, would have had true sorrow for their sins, for they wept 
on account of them; nor would the penitent David have had true 
sorrow when he said, ''I have sinned against the Lord,'" in 
which passage we do not read of his having shed tears, and yet 
he was immediately assured, in the name of God, by the Prophet 
Nathan, that his sins were forgiven. Besides, if true contrition 
consisted in tears, women would have a great advantage over 
men, for they are of a more tender nature, and can be easily 
moved to tears, or, as people say, they can laugh and cry as they 
please. But it is not likely that the almighty God, who created 
both sexes for the same end, that is, for eternal happiness, has 
given to women an easier means of repentance, so that they can 
excite themselves to sorrow with less difficulty than men. That, 
I say, is not likely. Hence it may sometimes happen that a 
woman goes to confession weeping and moaning bitterly, while a 
man goes in as dry as a stick, without giving any outward signs 
of sorrow, yet the woman does not repent of her sins, while the 
man's repentance is true and sincere. Therefore those people 
act very wrongly who, in order, as they think, to awaken sorrow 
for their sins, make sensible efforts to force out tears and sighs* 
to the great detriment of their health; and if they succeed in 
doing so, they imagine they have true contrition. But they are 
greaSy mistaken. Others think they have not true sorrow be- 
cause they do not feel a palpitation of the heart, or some other 
sign of bodily excitement, or because they do not experience 
such a bitter sensible sorrow as they would feel at the death of 
their parents, children, or friends, since it is certain that the 
sorrow for sin must be greater than any sorrow caused by all the 
imaginable evils in the world. Ah, they think, that death, or 

J Contrltlo est dolor animl, peccata sua detestantis, et ad vltam meUorem asplrautis. 
' Peccavi Domino.— II. Kings xii. 13. 

Necessity and Nature of Sorrow for Sin. 289 

temporal misfortune, or trial causes me such grief that I cannot 
restrain my tears, while I am not able to shed one for having of- 
fended God by mortal sin; it can hardly be that I have a true 
sorrow for my sins. ^ 

What nonsense! Sorrow for sin is not a natural and sensible 
affection of the sensitive part of our nature, but a supernatural, 
spiritual affection of the reasoning soul, and it consists partly in 
a movement of sorrow in the understanding, and partly in an 
earnest retractation and condemnation in the v/ill, just as we 
have seen already in the case of the mother who caused her 
child's death; the natural sorrow and repentance she experienced 
enabled her understanding to see that she had done wrong, and 
this knowledge induced her will to condemn her harsh treatment 
of the child, and to wish sincerely that she had not been guilty 
of it. So it is also with the soul of the penitent who has contri- 
tion for his sins. In the first place, when his conscience repre- 
sents his sins to his memory, and he, enlightened by faith, has 
thought of what a great, almighty, all-seeing God, worthy of all 
love, he has despised, and of what a loving Father and sovereign 
Benefactor he has offended; of how he has inflicted eternal death 
on his own precious soul for the sake of some miserable, momen- 
tary pleasure, and sacrificed heaven and everything that is good, 
and exposed himself to the danger of being buried in hell forever, 
then his understanding is enabled to see, to his secret confusion, 
that he has indeed acted wrongly and foolishly. Am I not, he 
thinks to himself, foolish, presumptuous, ungrateful, and wicked, 
to have committed sin? This know'ledge and sorrow on the part 
of the understanding are followed by a resolution and repentance 
on the part of the will, by which he hates, condemns, and, as it 
were, retracts the evil lie knows he has done, and wishes heartily 
he had never done it. Ah, he says to himself in all sincerity, 
would that I had never done it! If it were to be done again, I 
would rather die a thousand times than be guilty of it! Now, if 
this sorrow of his arises from the fact that he is grieved at hav- 
ing offended and insulted God, whom he now loves above all 
things on account of His infinite perfections, then it is a perfect 
contrition^ and can blot out sin even outside the sacrament of 
penance. But if it is caused by his grief at having offended God, 
who has been so good to him, or who can shut heaven against 
him, or condemn him to hell, then it is an imperfect contrition, 
which is sufficient to obtain forgiveness of sin- in the sacrament 
of penance. You see now that all this is not necessarily an af- 

It is a spirit- 
ual act of 
the under- 
and tbe 


290 Necessity and Nature 0/ Sorivzv for Sin. 

fection of the senses or of the body, but that it resits in the 
mind and in the soul. No words are required for it, and the 
forms of acts of contrition that are found in prayer-books are 
placed there merely to help the understanding to see that it has 
done evil, and to impel the will to hate and detest the sm it has 
consented to. Nor does this contrition require a long time; if 
it is sincerely entertained in the heart even for a moment, that 
is long enough for it to obtain the forgiveness of sin. 
And must j g.^^ ^jjj^^ :^^ ^^^^^ \^^ sincerely entertained, so that, in virtue of 
made°^^^'^ my knowledge and detestation of sin, I am seriously resolved, if 
for instance I should fall into extreme poverty unless I commit 
a sin of injustice, rather to accept poverty than commit the sin; 
or, if I had to spend my life in the greatest suffering unless I * 
consent to an impure desire, or speak unchastely, or otherwise 
indulge my passions, I am firmly resolved rather to choose the 
suffering than to consent to sin; and so also for all other sins. 
It is not, indeed, necessary for true contrition, nor is it always 
advisable, to imagine one's self in such circumstances; yet my 
sorrow for sin must be so sincere that I am disposed, if such 
circumstances arise, to prefer any evil rather than offend God 

by mortal sin. 
Many have Christians, have we always that earnest resolve when we are 
sinclre^sor- exciting ourselves to sorrow for sin before confession? Have you 
got it, who recite a whole catalogue of mortal sins in confession, 
and then repeat by heart the formula, "I am sorry for all those 
sins, because I have thereby offended God," while you hardly 
bestow a thought on the meaning of those words? The same I 
say to you who come to confession with a great number of mortal 
sins, and never show any signs of amendment from one confes- 
sion to another. And to you also, who continue in the proxi- 
mate occasion of sin, in impure intimacy, in hatred and enmity, 
in drunkenness, in the filthy habit of cursing and swearing, in 
following the unlawful customs of the world, and in the posses- 
sion of ill-gotten goods. Are you all firmly resolved to detest 
your sins above every other evil? Do you seriously wish you had 
never committed them? But how is that possible? Your sor- 
row is only a lip-sorrow; it does not touch the heart, and there- 
fore it is only an apparent, invalid, and sacrilegious sorrow, 
which adds to your sins instead of taking them away. I repeat 
what I have said already, out of a hundred bad confessions, 
ninety-nine, generally speaking, are invalid through a defect of 
true sorrow. 

The Properties of True Sorrow for Sin. 291 
Almighty and most merciful God, do Thou with Thy pene- w^°^^^_ 


trating voice suggest the conclusion to the hearts of all sinners, venuyfor 
'' Be converted to me with all your heart.'' ' All that I require theprace of 
in order to forgive your sins is that you repent of and detest ^^^^ 
even for a moment your wickedness against Me; but that'repent- 
ance must be sincere and earnest. If your hearts are so hard 
that they cannot be moved, come to Me, sigh and call out to Me 
for the grace of true repentance, and I will soften_ your hearts, 
so that you will find it easy to be sorry for 3'our sins: '' If he cry 
to Me, I will hear him, because I am compassionate; " ^ so have 
I said to all men long since. Do you then cry out to Me, and I 
will hear vou, for I am merciful and do not desire the death of 
the sinner. And when you have finished your prayer, represent 
to yourselves by a lively faith Him v/hom you have offended, 
and how unjustly and ungratefully you have treated Him, what 
a great good you have lost by sin, what a terrible eternal evil you 
have thereby involved yourselves in. With the help of divine 
grace this consideration will move yonr soul heartily to detest 
sin, and it will compel Me to show you My mercy, and to receive 
you again into My friendship. Christians, follow the inspira- 
tions of the good God who is speaking to you! Amen. 



1. True sorrow for sin must be extended to all the mortal sins 
that one has committed, without a single exception. 2. It must 
spring from a supernatural motive. Many faults are committed 
against both these properties of true sorrow. — Preached on the 
fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost. 


Kemo potest duohns dominis servire. — Matt. vi. 24. 
"No man can serve two masters." 


There are many so-called penitent Christians in the world now- 
adays who try to prove that they can do what Our Lord says 

* Convertimlnl ad me in toto corde vestro.—Joel. li. 12. 

' Si clamaverit ad me, exaudiam eum, quia miserlcors sum.— Exod. xxii. 2?. 

292 The Properties of True Soi^row for Sin. 

cannot be done. Thev wish to serve the world and God at tlie 
same time; tbev Avish to serve God, and also their rebellious 
flesh; they wish to give tliemselves partly to God, and partly to 
the devil. And this is principally the CJise with them when 
they are preparing for confession; for there are some sins they 
wish to banish out of their hearts, and others they remain at- 
tached to; or .else, if they repent of all thor sins, it is not from a 
supernatural motive. But they are attempting an impossibility; 
*' No man can serve two masters/' Last Sinulay, my dear breth- 
ren, I showed the necessity of true contrition for him who has 
sinned grievously and wishes to go to confession, and that ne- 
cessity is so absolute that under Jio circumstances can sins be 
foririven without it. I have also explained in what this contri- 
tion consists, namely, in a penitent act of the understanding, by 
which I acknowledge that I have done evil, and in a penitent act 
of the will, by which I detest sin and sincerely wish I had never 
committed it. The further properties of contrition I shall now 
explain, against those who wish to serve two masters, and I say. 

Plan of Discourse. 
True sorrow for sin must he extended to all the mortal sins 
that one has committed, without a single exception; that I shall 
explain in the fird part. It must spring from God, that is, 
from a supernatural mot ire, as we shall see in the second part. 
Many faults are committed against both tliese 2)t'op>erties of triie 

To avoid them in future, and to serve Thee with all our hearts, 

we humbly beg Thy help and grace, God of goodness, through 

the intercession of Mary and of the holy guardian angels. 

He who He who wishes to be a true Catholic must believe all that the 

!!^^tSone Catholic Church teaches. If he doubts of the truth of a single 

mortal sin article of her teaching he is already a heretic and an apostate, 

lomramt? ^^ ^^® obstinately perseveres in his doubt; nay, by the very fact of 

does not re- his doubting one article of faith, he refuses to believe in any. 

pent of any. jj^^ is that? Because the motive that should impel him to 

believe in the one article holds good for all the others. For the 

same God, for instance, who has revealed that there are three 

divine Persons in one nature has also revealed that Jesus Christ 

is really present in the Blessed Sacrament, living God and Man, 

body and soul; and the word of God is as infallible in the latter 

article as it is in the former. Now, if I refuse to believe Him 

in one point, then I consider Him as guilty of deceit, and there- 

The Properties of True Sorrow for Sin. 293 

fore I cannot believe anything He says. The same .may be said 
of one who repents of his sins. If his sorrow does not extend to 
all the mortal sins he has committed, if there is but one of them 
that he does not detest with all his heart, then he is not a true 
penitent. Nay, he is not sorry for any of his sins, because the 
motive which should excite him to sorrow is opposed to one sin 
as well as to man3\ If I detest a mortal sin because it closes 
heaven against me and exposes me to the eternal flames of hell, 
provided my repentance is sincere, I must also detest every 
mortal sin, because they all entail the loss of heaven and the 
pains of hell. If I detest a mortal sin because I have thereby 
offended God, who is so good to me, I have the same reason for 
detesting all mortal sins. If I detest a mortal sin because I 
thereby have troubled Jesus Christ, my Saviour, who has loved 
me so much that He suffered death for me, I have the same 
cause to detest all mortal sins. If I detest a mortal sin because 
I have thereby despised God, who is worthy of all honor and love, 
the same motive should impel me to hate all sin, or else my re- 
pentance is not sincere. 

Even if I had some particular reason for detesting one certain one mortal 
mortal sin, on account of some special deformity which is not j*"^^"^'^ 
found in the other sins I have committed, and if, therefore, my without the 
sorrow does not extend to those latter, nevertheless God requires ^'^^^ 
of me, if I wish to regain His grace and friendship and to re- 
ceive the sacrament of penance validly, that I should hate and 
repent of all the mortal sins I have committed, and that, too, 
with my whole heart. For according to the present arrange- 
ments of divine Providence one mortal sin cannot be remitted 
without the others, and none without true sorrow; all must be 
forgiven together, or else none at all. God will not make 
friendship with the sinner until the latter has subscribed to all 
the required conditions; all that He hates must be given up and 
destroyed. '^Be converted and do penance for all your iniqui- 
ties,'^ He says to sinners by His Prophet Ezechiel, for all with- 
out exception, *'and iniquity shall not be your ruin. Castaway 
from you all your transgressions, by which you have trans- 
gressed, '^ * all without exception; for, if you allow a single one of 
them to remain on your conscience, you will assuredly die the 
death of the sinner. 

* Conyertlmlni. et adte poenitentiam ah omnibus Inlquitatibus yestrls ; et non erlt vobis 
In rulnam iniquitas. Projiclte a vobis omnes praevarlcationes vestras, In quibus pnevarl- 
caii estls. - Ezech. xvlll. 50, 31. 

294 ^^^ Properties of True Sorrozv for Sin, 

my repent- 
ance is not 
Rood, unless 
I am sorry 
for ail my 

Many peni- 
tents act 
•wronjfly in 
this respect, 
as Saul did 
with the 

And what good would it do me to slied bitter tears for a hun- 
dred grievous sins, if my heart and will still remained attached 
to but a single one? All my tears and repentance would be 
utterly useless. For if every mortal sin can be compaiod to a 
tiiunder-cloud, according to the words of the Prophet Isaias, 
'' I have blotted out thy iniquities as a cloud, and tliy sins as j^ 
mist,^' ^ what better am I for haviug gone through a hundred 
storms without injury, if in one of them a thunder-bolt strikes 
me to tlie ground? If every sin is a strong cord, as the penitent 
David says, '' The cords of the wicked have encompassed me," ' 
does it lulp me to my freedom to have burst a hundred cords, if 
I am still bound fast with one in the cruel slavery of the devil? 
If every mortal sin is a heavy burden, according to the bitter 
complaint of the same David, ^' My iniquities ai-e gone over my 
head; and as a heavy burden are become heavy upon me," ' 
what lighter will I be for having thrown a hundred of them off 
my conscience, if there still remains a heavy mill-stone whose 
weight is enough to drag me down into the abyss of hell? If 
every mortal sin brings eternal death, " The soul that sinneth, 
the same shall die," * is my life any safer because I am pierced 
throuirh the heart with one instead of a hundred bullets, or 
with one instead of a hundred swords? In a word, what good is 
it to repent of a hundred sins, if I am to be damned on account 
of one? Hell is full of unfortunate sinners who are lost 
through a single bad habit, a single vice to which they were ad- 
dicted during their lives. How, then, can I expect to obtain 
pardon, if I repent of one sin and not of all, since God will not 
forgive one without the other? Tlierefore true sorrow must be 
extended to all mortal sins that one has committed: **Do pen- 
ance for all your iniquities." 

contrition of many Christians who go to confession, of 
wnat kind art thou, I ask again? Art thou always able to 
loosen every chain, to destroy everything that is hateful to the 
offended Majesty of God? Does it not sometimes happen that 
one or another sin is kept in the heart, made the object of a 
special attachment, and is neither detested nor renounced? Ah, 
I fear there are many sins that remain still unrepcnted of! 
They are the Amalekites rejected by God, who still live in our 

1 UelevI «t nubem inlquitates tuas, et quasi nebulam peocata tua.— Isa. xliv. 22. 
' Funes peccatorum circumplexi sunt me.— Ps. cxvill. 61. 

» Iniquitates meae supergressse sunt caput meum, et sjcut onus grave gravata? sunt 
super me.— n)id. xxxvil. 5. 
* Anima quae peccaverit. Ipsa morietur.— Ezech. xviil. £0. 

The Properties of True Sorrow for Sin. 295 

midst, and whom the Lord has commanded us, as he formerly 
did king Saul, to destroy, and to immolate as a sacrifice to His 
avenging justice. God commanded the Prophet Samuel to say 
to Sa'iil,'''Go and smite Amalec, and utterly destroy all that he 
hath; spare him not, nor covet anything that is his; but slay 
both man and woman, child and suckling, ox and sheep, camel 
and ass. " ' Saul obeyed, but not fully, as God had commanded 
him; he cut and burnt, and hacked and slew; but whom and . 
what? ''All the common people," says the Holy Scripture, 
'' he slew with the edge of the sword. And Saul and the people 
spared Agag, and the best of the flocks of sheep and of the 
herds, and the garments and the rams, and all that was beauti- 
ful, and would not destroy them." * He kept for himself what 
was of any use to him, ''but everything that was vile and good 
for nothing, that they destroyed. " ' And therefore he received 
from Samuel the sad news that God had deposed him from his 
throne, and rejected him, because he did not destroy everything 
according to the command of the Lord. "Forasmuch, there- 
fore, as thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, the Lord hath 
also rejected thee from being king."* 

There we have a striking picture of the conduct of many For they re- 
Christians when they are preparing for confession. As we have ^^^^^^ 
seen already, God has commanded them by the Prophet Ezechiel but not 
to put off all sin: " Cast away fi-om you all your transgressions, ^'^^';^""'^ 
by which you have transgressed, and make to yourselves a new 
heart and a new spirit." ' If you wish to do penance, you must 
slay with the sword all the sins you have committed, that is, 
you must destroy them by true contrition. But how do they 
act? Many of them are obedient to the divine command, but 
after the fashion of Saul; they act towards their vices as he did 
towards the Amalekites: " All the common people he slew 
with the edge of the sword." They repent of and detest the sins 
that do not°excite strong desires in them, from which they hope 
for no special profit or pleasure, and which they have not much 
difficulty in avoiding; these they sacrifice to the divine justice. 

» Vade, et percute Amalec, et detnolire universa ejus; non parcas ei, et non concupiscas 
ex rebus ipsius allquid ; sed interflce a viro usque ad mulierem, et parvulum atque lacten- 
tem, bovem et ovem. cameluni et asinum.— I. Kings, xv. 3. 

2 Omne autem vulgiis interfeclt in ore gladil. Et pepercit Saul et populns Agag, et opii- 
mis gregibus ovium et armentorum. et vestibus et arietibus, et uaiversis quae pulchra erant, 
nee voluerunt disperdere ea.— Ibid. 8, 9. 

» Quidquid vero vile f uit et reprobum, hoc demoliti sunt.— Ibid. 9. 

4 Pro eo ergo, quod abjecisti serraonem Domini, abjecit te Dom4nus, ne sis rex.-Ibid. 23. 

» Projicite a vobis oranes praevaricationes vestras. in quibus praevaricati estis, et facite 
vobis cor novum et spiritum novum.— Ezech. xviii. 31. 

296 The Properties of True Sorrow for Sin. 

For instance, one lias omitted, tlirongh culpable neglect, to hear 
Mass on a Sunday or holy-day; another, in a fit of anger, has 
cursed from his heart his parents, his wife, or his children, and 
he was afterwards frightened at what he said; another has eaten 
meat on a fast day, or has taken a false oath, or has done some- 
thing to injure one who was formerly his friend, and so on. 
These are, so to speak, the common herd of sins, from which 
no particular profit or pleasure is to be expected; these must be 
declared in confession, and be heartily repented of: ''All the 
common people he slew with the edge of the sword ; " but what 
becomes of the king? what of the more important and attractive 
ti-ansgressions? '' Saul spared Agag . . . and all that was 
beautiful." That is what they do. Whatever is pleasing to 
the senses, and has captivated their hearts for a long time, is 
spared. That unlawful, scandalous intercourse with that per- 
son, which there is no intention of abandoning; the proximate 
occasion of sin, which one does not wish to leave; the inveterate 
habit of sensual indulgence; that long-standing hatred and en- 
mity; those ill-gotten possessions, that have been kept so long 
•without any restitution being made; the habit of drunkenness 
and intemperance, which is the occasion of many sins; those 
scandalous abuses, which are such an occasion of sin to others, 
etc., these are the king Agag whose life is saved; these are kept 
uninjured in the heart, in the inclination, and in the desires; 
these sins are not repented of, because there is no serious inten- 
tion of avoiding them. 
Because Hear, sinner, if vou wish to be truly converted to God and 

they fear , i <• " • 

thedifflcui- to receive pardon of your sins; you must, as soon as ever you 
I^*''*"!!"*^' ^^"^^ restore your ill-gotten goods to their lawful owner. Alas! 
you say, I am sorry for my sins; is not that enough, without 
giving back those things? It is too difficult for me to do it how; 
some other time, when I am richer. You see how it is? The 
king's life must be spared. If you wish to do penance, you 
must forgive your enemy from your heart, and, if necessary, beg 
his pardon, and be fully reconciled to him. What ? Be rec- 
onciled to that man ? Never; the thing is impossible; he has 
insulted me too grossly, and I cannot bear the sight of him; I 
forgive him in my heart, but I cannot help rejoicing if some 
misfortune happens to him. There is another king whose life 
has to be spared. If you wish to do penance and to be re- 
admitted to the friendship of God, you must leave the proximate 
occasion of sin, and give up your bad habits, live more soberly. 

lug them. 

The Properties of True Sorrow for Sin, 297 

avoid cursing and swearing, dissension^ and scandal-giving, and 
whatever is an occasion of sin to you must be got rid of at once. 
That improper intimacy has to be broken off, and the proximate 
occasion of sin to be shunned; you must nevermore enter that 
house, or go into that company; if the person with whom you 
have hitherto been in the habit of sinning is dearer to you 
than the apple of your eye, or more useful to you than your 
hand or foot, yet you must give up that person once for all, ac- 
cording to the command of Our Lord, -'If thy eye scandalize 
thee pluck it out and cast it from thee; it is better for thee, 
having one eye, to enter into life, than, having two eyes, to be 
cast into hell fire."' Have you thought of this seriously? Do 
vou repent of and detest with your whole heart your attachment 
to these evil habits, occasions, and company, and hate it above 
every imaginable evil? Do you really prefer to die rather than 
go back to your evil ways? Alas, cries out your conscience, how 
can I abandon this or that habit? What will people say? How 
can I leave that person, break off that intimacy, or go away be- 
fore the time I engaged for has expired? I dare not do it. 
The only pleasure or comfort I have is in the .society of that 
person; how can I venture now to cause him or her such trouble? 
It is impossible; I cannot do it; God will not look at it as a 
grievous sin on my part. A fine repentance that! The king's 
liFe must again be spared. 

In that way we do penance in appearance, but not in reality; ^.^g^^^^^^jg 
and we are worse when we come out of the confessional, than truly con- 
when we went in. For repentance does not in that case extend verted 

Til. 1 X >. 1 • must repent 

to every mortal sm, and therefore j^ou who act thus are in aof^iihis 

miserable and damnable state; not one of your sins is forgiven; sins, 
the Lord God has rejected you. It is true. He has promised you 
His grace and friendship, and is ready to give them to you at any 
moment; but on condition that you repent of all your sins with- 
out exception. Hear what He says by the Prophet Ezechiel: 
" But if the wicked do penance for all his sins, which he hath 
committed, and keep all My commandments . . . living he shall 
live, and shall not die; I will not remember all his iniquities 
that he hath done."' *'Pour out thy heart like water before 
the face of the Lord,"' says the Prophet Jeremias. And why 

> si oculus tunsscandalizat te, erue eum, et projice abs te; bonum tibl est cum uno oculo 
in vltani Intrare. quam duos oculos babentem mtttl In i?ehennam ignis.— Matt, xviii. 9. 

- Si autetn Impius egerlt i>oenitentiam ab omnibus peccatis suis, quan operatus est et 
custodierit omnia prjpcepta mea . . . vita vivet, et non morietur ; x)mnium iniquitatum ejus, 
quas operatus est, non recordabor.— Ezech. xviii. 21, 22. 

* Eflunde sicut aquam cor tuum ante conspectum Domini.— Lament. II. 19. 

Many ex- 
amples of 
penitents in 
Holy Scrip- 
ture whose 
was worth 

298 The Properties of T^^ue Sorrow for Sin. 

not like oil or balsam? Xo; for oil or balsam cannot be poured 
out of a irlass so that none of it remains sticking to the sides (^f 
the vessel, while water, on the contrary, may be poured out t;t 
once almost to the lust drop. Sinner, when you go to confes- 
sion, '* Pour out tliv heart like Avater before the face of the 
Lord," so that not one of your sins remains unrepented of. 
Therefore contrition must be extended to every mortal sin. But 
it must also proceed from a supernatural motive, as we shall 
see in the 

Second Part. 
By the motive I mean that which impels us to sorrow and 
repentance; and it must be supernatural; that is to say, that 
which moves me to be sorry for my sins must come from faith. 
A few examples will serve to make this clear. We find in the 
Holy Scriptures instances of sinnei-s who were addicted to almost 
tlie same vices, and were guilty of almost the same sins, and, ap- 
parently at least, did penance in the same way; who would not 
say that they all received pardon and grace from the God of 
infinite justice and mercy? Yet such is not the case. King 
Pharao sinned by rebelling against the divine command, and he 
repented of his disobedience, not once, but several times; for he 
sent for Moses and Aaron and said to them with a sorrowful 
heart: '^ I have sinned against the Lord your God, and against 
yon; "' I have done evil in not allowing your people to go out 
of my country, as the Lord commanded them. I have sinned; 
*' But now forgive me my sin this time also;" I will not be 
guilty of it again; ''and pray to the Lord your God, that He 
take away from me this death;"' go at once and offer sacrifice 
to the Lord. King Saul, as we have seen already, sinned by dis- 
obedience to the command of God, and he, too, repented. '' I 
have sinned," he said to Samuel, ''because I have transgressed 
the commandment of the Lord. . . But now bear, I beseech thee, 
my sin, and retnrn with me, that I may adore the Lord." " King 
Antiochus sinned by pride, but he repented of his sin and wept 
bitter tears on account of it. " And by this means," says the 
Holy Scripture, " being brought from his great pride, he began 
to come to the knowledge of himself;"* and he acknowledged 

> Peccavl In Domlnum Deum vestrutn, et in vos — Exod. x. 16. 

2 Sed nunc dimitt« peccatum mlhi etiam hac vice, et rojjate Dominum Deum vestrum, ut 
anferat a me mortem istam.— Ibid. 17. 

* Peccavi quia prsevarlcatus sum sermonem Domini, Sed nunc porta, quaeso, peccatum 
meum, etreverteremecum, ut adorem Dominum.— I. Kings xv. 24, 2r>. 

< Hinc igitur coepit ex gravi superbia deductus ad agnltionem sui venire.— II. Mactiab. 
Ix. 11. 

The Properties of True Sorrow for Sin. 299 

openly before his whole court what he had done, in order to 
atone for the scandal he had given by his pride. " It is just to 
be subject to God, and that a mortal man should not equal him- 
self to God. "^ Judas sinned when he betrayed his Master for 
money, but he repented. "I have sinned," he said to the high- 
priests, "in betraying innocent blood ;" '^ and in order to prove 
the sincerity of his repentance, he brought back the thirty pieces 
of silver and threw them down in the temple. " But what 
good did their repentance do those people? None at all; in 
spite of it, they were lost forever. 

On the other hand, King David sinned, and that, too, in con- 
sequence of the greater lights he enjoyed, more grievously than 
those others, when he committed the crimes of adulterv and 
murder. "I have sinned against the Lord,"* said he to tlic 
Prophet Nathan; that was all the proof he then gave of his 
repentance, and yet the Prophet said to him at once: " The 
Loi'd also hath taken away thy sin; thou shalt not die."* The 
notor'oi.s sinner Magdalene loved Our Lord with all her heart, 
and cast hei'self down at His feet; whei'eupon she had the hap- 
piness of hearing from His own divine lips the words, " Many 
sins are forgiven her."" Peter denied his Master most shame- 
fully three times; but he began to weep immediately after, and 
not aiiother word Avas said of his sin. The thief on the cross, 
who probably had not done a good act during his whole life, 
onlv said to Christ the words, " Lord remember me when Thou 
shalt come into Thy kingdom,"' and at once the eternalking- 
dom was promised him; "Amen, I say to thee, this day thou 
shalt be with Me in paradise."*^ 

How is it, my dear brethren, that there is such a difference 
between the effects of a repentance that seems in every case the 
same? Has God, perhaps, more respect for one than for another? 
But that cannot be, for otherwise the Apostle would not have 
spoken the truth when he wrote to the E{)hesians, "iThe Lord 
of you is ill heaven, and there is no respect of persons with 
Him."'* It makes no difference to Him who does penance; if 

* Justum est subditum esse Deo, et mortalera non paria Deo sentire.— II. Machab. Ix. 12. 
' Peccavi, tnidens sanguinem justum.— Matt, xxvii. 4. 

* Poeni ten tia ductus retuIittri)?intaars;enteos.— Ibid. 3. 

* Peccavi Domino.— II. Kings xii. J3. * 
^ Dominus quoque transtullt peccatum tuum ; non morieris.— Ibid. 

* Reniittuntur el peccata multa.— LuJje vli. 47. 

' Domlne, memento mei, cum veneris In rejrnum tuum.— Ibid, xxiii. 42. 
« Amen, dico tibi, hodiemeonm eris in paradiso.— Ibid. 43. 

* Vester Dominus est In coelis, et personarum acceptio non est apud eum.— Ephes. vl. 9. 

whose re- 
was appar- 
ently the 
same, were 

Because thje 
former had 
net super- 
natural sor- 

The same 
defect is 
found iu 
many who 
repent be- 
cause their 
sins cause 
them tem- 
poral loss or 

300 The Properties of True Sorrow for Sin, 

the poor beggar is really sorrow for his sins, there is pardon and 
grace for him, as well as for the penitent king or prince. What, 
then, is the reason of the difference? In the eyes of men, says 
St. Augustine, there was no difference between the repentance 
of the'^former and that of the latter; but the divine Judge, 
who sees the secrets of the heart, did not look at the matter as 
we do. For in the case of the former it was some mere natural 
motive that moved them to sorrow; the sighs were pressed 
from their hearts, and the apparently penitent tears fromtheir 
eyes, not by the thought that they had offended the great God, 
but by a desire of their own temporal advantage, or by the 
fear of some temporal calamity. Pharao was afraid that still 
greater plagues would fall upon him, as Moses had threatened 
in the name of God; and therefore he repented of his disobedi- 
ence. Saul was anxious to retain the crown, and when Samuel 
told him that he would lose it for his sin, he repented at once. 
Antiochus was afraid of death, and hoped to be freed from the 
intolerable stench of his illness, for he was being eaten alive by 
worms; and therefore he wept and acknowledged God as his 
supreme Lord. Judas could not bear the tortures of a bad 
conscience, which brought him, not to a true supernatural con- 
trition, but to the extremity of despair. Therefore none of those 
sinners found grace and mercy from God. 

Christians, what sort of confessions do you make? Of 
what kind is your sorrow for sin? I have sinned; I repent of 
my sins, and am sorry for them, etc. That is what they all say; 
and many of them are indeed sorry that they have sinned, and 
would wish never to have committed a sin; but what is the 
motive of their sorrow? What^makes them shed tears of re- 
pentance? Is it because they have offended the almighty God, 
who is infinitely good and worthy of all love? Ah, I am afraid 
that is what most of them think the least of! Some temporal 
object, or natural feai* and anxiety, or misfortune, or the dread 
of dist^race before the world; such are the motives that induce 
them to detest what they have done against the law of Gcd. 
For instance, a person comes to confession (I know of no sucli 
person, my dear brethren, I am speaking only of what may 
occur), who has been guilty of the sin of impurity, and is so full 
of sighs and tears that one might imagine that it was a peni- 
tent Magdalene who was there; but in the sight of God, who 
cannot be deceived, those sighs and tears are of no value. Why? 
Why does he not notice such vehement sorrow? Because that 

The Propel' ties of True Sorrow for Sin, 


person^s tears and grief arise from the dread of shame and dis- 
grace before the world; that is the only motive from which they 
spring. A servant comes to confession to accuse himself with 
many tears of a theft he has committed. Alas, he says, I have 
sinned! And why is he so afflicted? Is it because he has 
offended the good God? Not at all. lie has been caught in 
the act by his master, turned out of the house, and has con- 
sequently lost his good name, so that he cannot find another 
place; that is what fills his eyes with tears. Another accuses 
himself of gluttony and drunkenness, of quarrelling and conten- 
tion, of cursing and swearing and gambling; and he is sorry 
for those sins; but why? Because he has lost the inestimable 
treasures of divine grace? Not by any means. By drinking and 
gambling he has reduced himself and his children to poverty; 
he has spent his week's wages; or he has lost a law-suit that he 
had unjustly commenced; there you have the only motive of his 
sorrow. All these people may have committed other sins as 
well; they may have grievously injured their neighbor's good 
name, or committed some other sin against chai-ity; they may 
have sought to be revenged on their enemies, have indulged in 
immodest conversation, have taken deliberate pleasure in impure 
thoughts, have given scandal to others by woi'd or deed, etc.; 
but when they come to speak of those sins, there is an end of 
their tears and sighs, because they have suffered no temporal 
loss by them, and are not put to shame before the world; and 
yet the great God is offended by the latter sins as well as by the 
former. That is an evident proof that their sorrow and repent- 
ance come only from some natural motive and are worth nothing 
as far as the forgiveness of sin is concerned. 

Another person comes and accuses himself of continual im- others be- 
patience, savins^ that he has often murmured against God, and ^*^^^^^®*' 

** o " triflls Anil 

given way to despair, and wished death to himself and to his crosses, 
family. If he is asked wh}^ there is no end to his tears and 
lamentations. Oh, what a heavy cross I have to bear! I cannot 
stand it any longer! I must put an end to myself! And then 
he begins to relate the whole history of his misfortunes, until 
the confessor, with great difficulty, succeeds in quieting him 
down somewhat. Now, of what use are those sighs and tears to 
repentance? Not the least. For it is not the offence offered to 
^od, but their own misery and trials that.J;hey deplore; their 
sorrow is not supernatural, and, in fact, such people are the 
least capable of being moved to true contrition for their sins. 


The Properties of True Sorrow for Sin. 


t '' 

because their hearts are fully occnpiecl with their natural grief, 
and their minds are too disturbed to admit of good thoughts. 
A woman has been for a long time in the habit of cnrsii^g her 
husband and her children; she has caused her parents great 
sorrow, and has treated them very harshly, and she confesses 
those sins constantlv, without anv serious eiTort to amend them. 
At last her husband, or her father, or her child dies; and then 
her heart is softened; then she runs to confession, bathed in 
tears. Unhappy wretch that I am, she exclaims, what have I 
done? How cruelly I have acted towards my dear husband or 
child, to my father, who was always so good to me, to my mother, 
who took such care of me! I am so sorrv for it now! Would 
that I never had been guilty of such harshness towards them! 
But whv do von make such a lamentation about it now? When 
your husband, or parents, or child were alive, did not your con- 
duct provoke the wrath of God just as much as it does now? 
But you were not sorry for cursing and swearing at them 
then; you shed not a single tear of repentance; and even now 
you continue the same harsh treatment towards your other chil- 
dren, who are still alive; you still trouble your mother by your 
disobedience. Thus it is evidently a mere natural feeling 
of compassion for your deceased relatives that causes your 
sorrow, and not the fact of your having offended God. But what 
is the good of such a repentance as that? The tears you 
shed are like the sap that drops from a tree, when a branch 
is cut off it in spring-time, and which simply wets the outer 
bark, without contributing anything to the fruitfulness of the 


Your motive for repenting of and detesting Aour sins must be 
far different, if you wish to regain the grace and friendship of 
God in the sacrament of penance. Represent to yourself by 
Buprmatur- fuitli what a great, mighty, powerful, omnipresent, good, merci- 
ai sorrow. |^^|^ ^^^ j^g^ q^^ ^^^^ htwe despised by your sins; the immense 

loss you have caused your soul to suffer; the punishment, the 
eternal flames of hell, that you have merited in the next life, 
and then you will have reason enough to deplore your sins with 
true interior sorrow. When you are going to confession, let 
faith speak to your heart in silent meditation, as the Prophet 
Nathan spoke to king David, when the latter was still in the state 
of sin and had forgotten God, in order to move him to repent- 
ance. Mark the tone in which the Prophet addresses him: 
" Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel; I anointed thee king 

David to 

T/ie Properties of True Sorrow for Sin. 303 

over Israel; " ' (pay attention, David, for it is the Lord who is 
speaking to you!) think of what you were a few years ago; you 
were a poor little boy, running about baiefooted, the least 
amongst your brethren, who had nothing to hope for but what 
you could earn by the sweat of your brow; a poor sliepherd boy, 
ill clad, you were glad when you had bread enough to eat. And 
I have given strength to your arms, that you might slay the 
fierce lion; I enabled you to overthrow the mighty giant, and to 
put his army to flight; and finally, out of sheer mercy and good- 
will to you, I have raised you to the throne; '^ I anointed thee 
king over Israel." Is not that so? Yes, David was obliged to 
confess, it is quite true. '* I delivered thee from the hand of 
Saul.*''* Do you remember how you fared at the court of that 
king? How he often tried in his madness to pierce you with his 
spear, and how he pursued you every wli ere with his army, seek; 
iug to kill you? Who helped you in those difficulties? Who 
protected you and saved you from the hands of your enemy? It 
was I, as you know very well. *^ And I gave thee thy master's 
house." " The splendid palace in which you now live, the gar- 
dens that surround it, the treasures which you possess in such 
abundance, whom did all those things belong to a few years ago? 
To Saul, your master. 

And I have taken them from him, in order to bestow them on 
you, who never expected to be raised to such dignity and wealth. 
Is not that tlie case? "Why, therefore, hast thou despised the 
word of the Lord, to do evil in My sight? Thou hast killed 
Urias the Hetliite with tlie sword, and hast taken his wife to be 
thy wife." * Have I deserved that from you? AVhen I placed the 
crown on your head, was that the time for you to trample My 
commandments under foot? When I raised you from out of 
obscurity, was it right of you to make Me your foot-stool? Un- 
grateful mortal, how have you dared to treat Mo thus? But 
cease, Lord, I pray Thee; Thy servant is at hand to secure 
pardon for the poor king, who is ready to die of shame and 
sorrow! '^ I have sinned against the Lord," * said David, and his 
deep contrition prevented him from saying any more. 

Sinner, when you are preparing for confession, you should so, also, 
imagine that God is speaking to you in the same manner; that ™°^*'^® 


sinner pre>- 

* Haec dlclt Domlnus Deus Israel : Ejjo unxl te In regem super Israel.— IT. KInps xll. 7. 
' Ejfo erul te de manu Saul.— Ibid. ' Et dedl tibi domum dotnini fui.— Ibid. 8. 

* Quare ergo contempslsti verbum Domini, ut faceres malum in.<!onspectu meo? Uriam 
Hethseum percussisti gladio, et uxorem lllius acceplsti In uxorem tlbi.— Ibid. 9. 

* PeccavlDomlno.-Ibld. 13. 

pare him- 
self for re- 

and repent- 
ance for 
past sin. 

304 The Properties of True Sorrow for Sin. 

He says to you, I have created yon ; a few years ago you were 
nothing; I eonld have left you in the abyss of your nothingness: 
I have chosen yon in preference to countless others, whom I 
might have created, and have drawn you forth from that abyss, 
and made vou to Mv imasfe and likeness; vour sonl and bodv, 
your understanding, memory, health, skill, good name, and 
temporal support, all that you have and are, are benefits tlij;t 
you have received from Me; and I have given them to yon with- 
out any merits on your part. The sun and moon, the stars in the 
heavens, the air, water, fire, the earth, and all that it produces, I 
have created for your service, comfort, support, and enjoyment. 
Is not that the case? I have redeemed vou from eternal death. 
When David sinned, I had not yet become man, nor died on the 
cross, nor given Myself as the food of menu's souls in the Blessed 
Sacrament: but since then I have come down from Mv throne of 
glory in heaven, taken on Myself the semblance of a poor ser- 
vant, lived a life of toilsome poverty, and shecl even the last 
drop of My blood, and all that for your sake, in order to save 
you from hell. In preference to many thousand others, I have 
called you to the true faith, given you My Flesh and Blood as 
the food of your soul, and preserved you from many dangers of 
soul and body. Often, when you had sinned mortally, I could 
have hurled you into hell, where many are burning now who 
have committed less sin than you; and while 3'ou were actually 
in the state of sin, I have had the greatest patience with you, 
although I could have inflicted eternal punishment on you at 
any moment. Look where you will, and everything you see, 
everything you have or know, or can do, is it not all from My 
goodness that you have it? Can you deny that? " Why, there- 
fore, hast thou despised the word of the Lord, to do evil in My 
sight?" If I had injured instead of benefiting you, could you 
have treated Me worse? And yet, in any case, I should be your 
supreme, almighty God, deserving of all your love, reverence, 
and obedience. See how ungrateful you have been to your 
Bovereisrn Benefactor! 

Ah, Christian soul, is it possible that those thoughts do not 
cause your heart to melt with sorrow and contrition? Say there- 
fore, with the penitent David, ''I have sinned against the 
Lord/' ungi'ateful wretch that I am; I have offended Him, who 
has never done me the least injury! Shameless mortal that I 
am, I have rejected Him, who has done me good every moment of 
my life. How rashly I have acted in sacrificing His grace and 

The Properties of True Sorrow for Sin, 305 

friendship for some miserable thing, some wretched gain, some 
vain honor, or .brutish pleasure, and in bartering the joys of 
heaven for the eternal flames of hell! Foolish mortal that I am! 
Even if I did not suffer such a loss, I have been guilty of de- 
spising and insulting the great God to His very face! Presump- 
tuous wretch that I am, what have I done? What could I have 
been thinking of, when I dared to act thus towards my God? 
Alas, I have sinned against the Lord: I acknowledsre it now with 
shame; I have sinned often and grievously, Lord, in Thy 
sight; and now all I can think and say is, I am sorry for it! 
Would that I had never offended Thee! , Pardon me this once, 
God of mercy, and I will never offend Thee again. Such is the 
way, my dear brethren, in which you must prepare yourselves to 
have a supernatural sorrow. Do Thou, God of goodness, move 
my heart and the hearts of us all to this sorrow for our sins, by 
Tliy powerful grace! And then let us all experience the realiza- 
tion of that assurance that Thy Prophet gave Thy penitent 
servant David: *^The Lord also hath taken away thy sin; thou 
shalt not die."' Such will be the case with you, sinners, if 
you repent sincerely of your sins, in the way I have now ex- 
plained to you! May God grant it! Amen. 

* Dominus quoque transtullt peccalum tuum ; non morleris.— II. Kings xil. 13. 






The strict justice of God in punishing sinners is especially 
evident in the punishment of the angels; and therefore we 
should he truly sorry for onr sins and dread offending a God 
who chastises so severely. — Preached on the feast of St. Michael 
the Archangel. 


Michael et a^irjeU ejus prceUahantvr cum dracone. — Apoc. xii. 7. 
'* Michael and his angels fought with the dragon.*' 


Who could ever have imagined, unless the infallihle Spirit of 
God Himself had revealed it, that there was war in heaven, 
tumult among the stars, rehellion amongst the angels? Yet such 
was the case. '* There was a great battle in heaven: Michael 
and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought 
and his angels." * But the strife did not last long; Michael and 
his followers soon gained tiie victory: "And that great dragon 
was cast out, that old serpent who is called the devil. . . and 
he was cast down unto the eai-th, and his angels were thrown 
down with him."' This is a wonderful occurrence,, my dear 
brethren, and it gives rise to many serious considerations. Is it, 
then, possible for the heavenly spirits to sin, and that in heaven, 
too; to fall and to be cast into hell? Alas, who then can be 

' Et factum est proellum mapniim in ccelo: Michael et anKeU ejus proellabantur cum 
dracone, et draco pugnabat, et anjrell eju8.— Apoc. xil. 7. 

' Et projectus est draco llle mHjrnus, serpens antiquus, qui vocatur dlabolus. . . et 
projectus est in terram, et angell ejus cum illo niissi sunt.— Ibid. 9. 


Repentance on account of the Justice of God. 307 

free from sin on earth? "Michael and his angels fought with 
the dragon;" in order to avenge the injured honor of God, they 
boldly took up arms, and cast the rebels out of heaven. There- 
fore, in all temptations and dangers that threaten our souls, we 
should call upon St. Michael and our holy guardian angels with 
child-like confidence for help, that they may continue, as they 
have hitherto done, to drive away from us the demons who 
assail us. '^ And that great serpent was cast out, and his angels 
were thrown down with him." I shudder when I think of that! 
The angels were thrown down from heaven into the abyss of 
hell! Oh, what a just God we have, and how severe lie is in His 
punishments! Who should not dread offending Him in the 
least? Who should not tremble at the thought of having ever 
offended Him by mortal sin! This is the thought that I shall 
develop to-day, by way of salutary warning. 

Plan of Discourse. 

Tlie strict justice of God in punishing sinners is especially 
evident in the reprohation of the angels. Such is the whole sub- 
ject of this meditation. To hioio the wickedness of sin, to 
repent of the sins we have coinmitted, to be careful in avoiding 
sin in future, and to love and fear God alivaySj, such shall be the 

To which mayest Thou, Almighty God, help us by Thy 
powerful grace, through the meditation of Thy strict justice. 
This Ave ask of Thee through the intercession of Mary, Thy 
Mother, St. Michael, the Archangel, and our holy guardian 

In order to realize the strict justice with which the Lord Our The strict 

- - , , . . T 1 ,1 justice Of 

God acted towards the rebel angels, imagine, my dear brethren, God m the 

that you see a criminal being dragged out of his prison, placed on reprobation 

a hurdle, and brought through the public streets to the place of anpeis 

execution, where he is first to be broken on the wheel and then shown by 

burnt to ashes. All are stricken with astonishment at hearing *^'"^*^®" 

of such an extraordinary and unusually severe punishment. 

Who is the poor man? they ask; wliere does he come from? 

what has he done? And they are told that he is one of the 

highest of the nobility, a minister and courtier, who, on account 

of his knowledge, prudence, and skill, was hitherto held in the 

greatest esteem by his sovereign; who had the arrangement of 

nearly everything in the whole kingdom, ancl who would still 

do much for the welfare of his country and the honor of his 


■■•wiT^ T^=*-..^afrfc.<'*wF»r^' ' 

308 Repentance on account of the Jtictice of God, 

sovereign, if his life were spared. Ob! cacli one Avoiild cry out, 
horror stricken at this answer, I tlionght he niustr {::i\e been one 
of tbe vilest of the common people, a notoi'ior.s robber or mur- 
derer. But no, is the ]'e|>ly; he is, as I luive said, one of the 
noblest in the land. And who has passed sr.cb a severe sentence 
on him? Our sovereign himself. AVhat? Our sovereign? He 
who is known everywhere to be a most gentle, iiiild, good and 
merciful ruler, who can hardly bear to inflict a trilling fine on a 
lowly peasaiit, so filled is he with pity and compassion? Is it he 
who has condemned to tbe wheel and the stake one whom he for- 
merly held in such high esteem? Yes, it is he. But it is impos- 
sible that such a sentence could be really carried into execution; 
it is pnblished, doubtless, in order to strike terror into mal- 
efactors; but when ho arrives at the place of execution his life 
will certainly be spared? Xot the least chance of it; if you go 
there vourself, von will see what will be done to him, and how 
his clothes will be pnlled olf, his limbs broken to pieces one after 
another on the wheel, and how he will then be thrown, still 
living, into the flames, where he will be burnt to ashes. What 
do yon think of it now? Well, if that is the case, he mnst have 
committed some enormous crime, or he would not have provoked 
such a mild and merciful sovereign to inflict such a dreadful 
punishment on him. Such is the conclusion that every think- 
ing man must come to, under the circumstances. 
TheanRcis Xow, mv dear brethren, to drop metaphors, and speak of the 

were migh- ". ,.. t«ii -t »!• 1 

ty princes matter as it really is, ascend with me 111 thought into the courts 
of heaven, of heaven; imagine that you see there countless numbers of 
angel-?, who have still to merit their eternal happiness. The 
very name of angel suggests a nature that is noblest, mightiest, 
and most beautiful amongst all mere creatures, the most oxoel- 
lent master-pieces of the Almighty's power; full of knowdedge 
and wisdom, as far as the understanding is concerned; endowed 
with the most complete freedom of the will; adorned with all 
kinds of natural and supernatural gifts, and created to tlie end 
that they might be courtiers and princes of heaven in the palace 
of the Most High, whose duty should be to stand round His 
throne and further His exterior honor and glory forever; and, 
besides, they were chosen by God as His ministers to carry out 
His commands on earth. Amongst these princes of heaven one 
of the noblest, if not the noblest, was Lucifer. "Thou wast 
the seal of resemblance,'^ such are the terms in which God 
addresses him by the Prophet Ezechriel, "full of wisdom and 


Repentance on account of the Justice of God, 309 

perfect in beauty," on account of the likeness his nature had to 
the divijie nature. '' Thou wast in the pleasures of the paradise 
of God," showing the happiness of the state of grace in which he 
was created, and the great favor he enjoyed with God. "Every 
precious stone was thy covering;" because he had a superabun- 
dance of the most perfect qualities, by which he surpassed his 
companions. "Tliou wast a cherub stretching out thy wings^ 
and covering, and I set thee in the holy mountain of God; thou 
hast walked in the midst of the stones of fire."' Oh, cert;iinly 
happy vvas the state of thatgreat spirit in the courts of the Lord! 

But. mv dear brethren, this very Lucifer, with the third part of Yet they 

^ ' * , . IX* werecon- 

the host of heaven, is doomed to execution; and sentence is demned 
already passed on him, according to the same Prophet: " Thy heu. 
"" inner parts were filled with iniquity, and thou hast sinned; and 
I cast thee out from the mountain of God, and destroyed tliee, 

covering cherub, out of the midst of the stones of fire. . . 

1 have cast thee to the ground. . . Therefore I will bring 
forth a fire from the midst of thee, to devour thee, and I will 
make thee as ashes ui)on the earth in the sight of ail that see 
thee; . . thou art brought to nothing, and thou shalt never 
be any more." " I will take away all beauty and glory from you, 
and from beautiful spirits you and all your companions shall be 
chan"-ed into hideous monsters, dragons, and demons. In a 
word, Lucifer and the third part of the angels were hurled down 
from heaven and condemned to the everlasting flames of hell. 

What a fearful sentence that is I And what judge pronounced ^^.J^j^*^" 
it? God. W^hat? That God, whose very nature is goodness merciful 
itself, of whom the Holy Ghost says that He hates nothing of all <^^' 
that He has made, and that He does not take pleasure in the 
destruction of His creatures ; whose justice cannot allow any 
one to be punished more than he deserves ; whose endless mercy 
makes Him bear for long years with even the most wicked sin- 
ners, and behave towards them with the greatest mildness and 
patience, so that, when He is at last compelled to punish them, 
the chastisement He inflicts on them is far less than they 
deserve? Could so merciful a God, I ask, pronounce such a 

» Tu signaculum simllltufiinis. plenus sapientla, et perfectns decore, in deliciis paradis 
Del fuistl ; omnis lapis pretlnsns opftrimentum tuum. Tu cherub exteutus et protegens, et 
posui te in monte sancto Dei, iumedio lapidum iffnitorum arabulasti.— Ezech. xxviii. 


2 Repletasunt interiora tua iniqultate, etpeccasti ; et ejecl teds monte Dei, et perdidi te, 
Clierub protejrens, de medio lapidnm iprnitorum; In terram projeci te : producam erjro 
itmem de medio tui, qui comedat te, et dabo te in cinerem super terram In conspectu 
omninm videntlum te ; nlhill f actus es, et non eris In perpetuum.-lbid. 16-19. 

^:-.n^t- »,-,^)»T»>ritg^^iaa.iW 

3IO Repentance on account of the Justice of God, 

severe sentence on those who were formerly His most heloved 
ministers and courtiers? Yes; and the sentence must be carried 
out on tlieni; for they have deserved it. But, God of goodness, 
if they have sinned only once, must their sin be punished so 
quickly with the fire of hell? Kemember that Thou art mild- 
ness and njcrcy itself, and if Thou wilt. Thou canst use n;iore 
lenient measures touards them! Consider the higli position 
they have occupied in Thy kingdom. One prince or king is 
deserving of more consideration than a thousand of the common 
people; and how much more an angel? Certainly, a diilerence 
should be made between the punishment inflicted on a noble 
prince, and that inflicted on a lowly slave or servant. Even 
accordiiig to our human laws, and the usual custom of the world, 
"one who excels in his art should not be condemned to death. ^'* 
Xo matter; in spite of their gi-eatness and excellence, they have 
to suffer the eternal punishment of hell. 
Andin Is there no chance for tiiem, then, Lord, and must their 

bere no™ Crime meet with such severe chastisement? Would it not suf- 
oneofthem ficc if the riug-leiiders of them were punished as a warning to 

*^^"*^ the others; or that every tenth one of them had to pav the 
spared. " ^ ^ 

penalty? Wilt Thou destroy such a vast number of heavenly 
spirits for one sin, and condemn to eternal deatli those beautiful 
master-pieces of Thy hands? Kemember, my dear brethren, that, 
according to the testimony of Denis the Areopagite, a pupil of 
St. Paul, who was wrapt in spirit to the third heaven and saw 
what was going on there, and also according to the opinion of 
St. Thomas of Aquin, God has created the angels in such num- 
bers that they outnumber all other creatures in the whole 
world, so that there are more angels than grains of sand on the 
sea-shore, stars in the firmament, leaves on the trees, and drops 
of water in the ocean. Such are the words of St. Penis.' Con- 
sider the length of time it would take to count the leaves on 
even one tree, and yon may have come idea of tl)e vast number 
of leaves on the trees in all the gardens and forests in tlie world. 
But the number of angels is much greater. Imagine, for you 
cannot see them on account of their great number, how many 
grains of sand there are in one little brook, and then think of 
the number there are in the Moselle, the Rhine, the Danube, in 
all the rivers of the earth and on the boundless sea-shore. Could 
any one count them all? But the number of angels is greater. 

* Excellens in arte non debet morl. 

' Angell plures sunt quam stelke coeli, quam arenae marls, quam folia, quam bcrlras. 

Repentance on account of the Jtistice of God, 311 

Kov/ the third part of them, with their leader, Lucifer, fell into 
sin; and, indeed, on one occasion St. Antony says that he saw the 
whole world filled with demons. But in spite of the fact that this 
Bevere sentence is passed on countless millions, the infinitely 
o-ood and merciful God does not alter it; they must all without 
exception suiter eternal torments. 

But God, art Thou utterly inexorable? Suffer me to put ^'ihou^ 

^ ^ ' "^ . . conceding 

forward a petition for those unhappy criminals. Do not visit them a 
them at once with the rigors of Thy justice. Give them only a moment for 
moment's respite, that they may consider what they have done, 
and Thou wiit see how bitterly they will deplore their sin, how 
humbly they will implore Thy pardon. And if Thou grantest 
them that grace, oh, how grateful they will be to Thee for all eter- 
nity; liow they will love, praise, honor, and bless Thee, and spread 
Thy glory throughout the world. But if Thou refusest it to them, 
they will rage against and curse Thee in despairing hatred for- 
ever; instead of giving Thee the honor and glory Thou mightest 
expect from them, they will blaspheme and revile Thee unceasing- 
ly; they will declare open war against Thee and Thy creatures, fill 
the whole world with idolatry and all kinds of vice, and by 
their temptations and snares drag down innumerable souls to 
hell with them, after having seduced them from Thy service, so 
that tliey will join with th^ m in cursing and blaspheming Thee 
forever. Accoi-ding to our ideas, my dear brethren, these con- 
siderations should have moved the Almighty to have at least 
given the rebel angels time for repentance; but quite different 
are the inscrutable decrees of the most just God; in the very 
moment in which they sinned against their Creator they were all 
hurled into the abyss of hell, without having a moment of mercy 
accorded them. " I saw," said Our Lord to His Disciples, " Satan 
like lightning falling from heaven." * 

And how long, Lord, will they be tortured in that fire? They win 

When they have spent a hundred, a thousand, or a hundred thou- ^'^^^"'"^ 
J i- forever for 

sand years therein, wilt Thou not then be satisfied, and have a momen- 
mercy on them? No, their punishment is not to be reckoned by tary sinful 
years. Suppose, then, that they are to be tortured for as many 
millions of years as there are stars in the heavens, grains of sand 
on the sea-shore, and drops of v;ater in the ocean, will not that 
be enough for one sin, that lasted but a moment, and wilt Thou 
not then receive them into Thy favor? No; they need never 
hope for pardon, eternal fire is their lot, and they must burn 

* Videbam Satanam slcut fulgur de coelo cadentem.— Luke x. 18. 

312 Repentance on account of the Justice of God, 

therein forever without hope of redemption. And what was, 
then, their sin, my God? AVhat did tliej do to displense Thee? 
Theirs must have been a terrible and enormous crime? Do vou 
wish to know what it was, my dear brethren? There is no 
doubt that the sin of the rebel angels was pride, and that they 
committed it by a single momentary thought. *' And thy heart 
was lifted up witli thy beauty," says the Prophet Ezechiel of 
Lucifer,'- thou hast lost thy wisdom in thy beauty."' For, ac- 
cording to the general teaching of the fathers and of theologians, 
God revealed to tlie angels the future incarnation of His Son, 
whom they would have to acknowledge as Chief and to adore as 
their God and King; but Lucifer and his followers, considering 
the beauty and excellence of their nature, thought it beneath 
them to adore one of a nature so much inferior to theirs as 
human nature is; and therefore they came to the resolution of 
not adoring that Man, nor acknowledging Him as their lawful 
superior. Such was the crime of those princes of heaven which 
compelled the good and merciful God to punish them so severely 
that they were at once cast into hell without a moment's grace 
being given them. 
From this And what am I to conclude from all this? sin, sin, how 
themau^ fearful must be thy malicel What an abomination in the sight 
of sin. of God must not even one wilful sin of thought be! And we 
make nothing of it! We commit sins of the kind, and laugh 
and joke and amuse ourselves with them, as if there were nothing 
in them. They are committed daily by the dozen, the hundred, 
the thousand, by us mortals, and that for something so worth- 
less that we have reason to be ashamed of it. Besides that, we 
seek for the occasion of committing them, and when we have 
found it, we r'ejoice; nay, we boast of our pins sometimes, as if 
we had performed some heroic deed. What great harm is there, 
many a one thinks, to look at a person of the opposite sex with 
wilful desire, or to indulge Avith deliberate pleasure in a passing 
impure thought? What great harm is there in being proud and 
vain in dress, in order to please others, although occasion may thus 
be given to impure desires here and there? Ah! ask Lucifer, 
ask all the evil spirits in hell, and they will tell you what a great 
evil it is thus to offend God even for a moment. Therefore, 
either God must have punished far too severely that one proud 
thought in so many millions of angels, and be still more unjust 

' Elevatum est cor tuum In decore tuo ; perdldlsti saplentlatn tuam In decore tuo.— 
Ezecb. xxTili. 17. 

Repentance on account of the Justice of God. 313 

In making their punishment last forever; or else every mortal 
sin, even of thought or desire, must contain in itself a fearful 
amount of malice. Now the first statement cannot be true, for 
it is opposed to the infinite goodness and mercy of God, so that 
the latter must be true, namely, that the malice of mortal sin is 
incomprehensible, even when it is committed only in thought. 
Ah, Christians, if we had thought of that before, and taken it 
deeply to heart, is it likely, nay possible, that we should have 
committed so many mortal sins, so easily and for such worthless 
things, in thouglit, word, and deed? If we always thought of it 
with a lively faith, would it be possible for us ever again to dare 
to consont to sin in any circumstances? IS^o; it would not be 


For, on further consideration, if God did not spare the angels ^^^^'J^^^ 
when they sinned, but at once cast them off forever out of His ofrendinjr 
sight, have I not much more reason to fear if I should be God- 
guilty of the presumption of saying, thinking, or doing anything 
that he has forbidden under pain of mortal sin? If lie has 
broken the precious golden vessels so quickly and cast them into 
the fire, what will He not do to the vile earthen ones? Every 
law makes a difference between the punishment to be inflicted 
on a noble and that which should be inflicted on one of the 
common people, nlthough both arc guilty of the same offence. 
Now, if the just God has acted with such severity towards those 
who were formerly His most noble imd beloved courtiers, how 
can I, a poor, miserable mortal, who am nothing but dust and 
ashes, ]n-esi|||e to hope that the same God will be more gracious 
to mo, if I should offend Him grievously? If God was not in 
need of His angels, from whom He might have received such 
praise, honor, and service for all eternity, can I expect Him to 
have more consideration for me, a miserable worm of the earth, 
who, if I do my very best, can offer Him but a worthless service? 
In a word, if", as St. Bernard says, ^' God did not spare the 
proud angels, but cast them at once into hell, hov*^ much less 
will He spare you, wdio are but rottenness and worms?''* And 
yet, I dare to offend this most just God by mortal sin! gra- 
cious Lord, protect me/ save me from such presumption! And 
yet, how often have I not been guilty of it? 

Alas, what am I to do? The angels in heaven have sinned ^^'J^j^^^^ 
against their God merely in thought, and they are condemned basmanto 

» si superblentlbas angells Deus nonpeperclt, quanto magls tibl, putredo et vermis?— 
8. Bern., Serm. 1, de advent. 

whose sins 
arp so mani- 

3 14 Repentance on account of the Justice of God, 

to hell forever; what sort o^ a hell have I, wretched sinner that 
I am, to expect, who have so grievously offended the same God 
in thought, word, and deed? The angels sinned by a thought 
which tliey could not carry into effect; but I have completed by 
shameless deeds my unchaste, brutish, revengeful, proud, avar- 
icious, unjust, and envious thoughts and desires. The angels 
sinned only once, and that for the first' time; and the Almighty 
in His anger did not give them a moment to repent; I have 
committed the same grievous transgressions twice, ten times, a 
hundred times, and have added sin to sin. I must acknowledge 

that I am one of those wicked ones of whom David 

says, "God 

is not before his eyes; liis ways are filthy at all times.'" Yes, 
my ways have indeed been filthy from the moment when I first 
came to the use of reason! I have defiled myself with sin in the 
houses in which I have lived, in the schools in which I was 
taught, in the gardens in which I amused myself, in the rooms 
I occupied; nay, I have desecrated by my sins the temides and 
churches consecrated to God in which I appeared, the holy 
sacraments I received when I was in the state of sin, and even 
the very confessional in which I could have cleansed myself 
from sin, when I appeared in it without true sorrow aiid 
purpose of amendment, or when I wilfully concealed a mortal 
sin through shame. My ways are filthy at all times: during the 
holy season of Advent, during Lent, in Holy Week, at Easter, 
and at Pentecost, at all times I have sinned. My Lord and my 
God, if I had been born in this world not to serve Thee and to 
keep Thy commandments, but to offend and despise Thee, 
could I have led a worse life? Years of my youth that are past 
and gone, show me a single day that I have spent without sin! 
Holy law of God, show me a single commandment that I have 
not broken! Alas, I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, 
and deed! I have sinned with my eyes, my ears, my tongue, 
my hands, and all my senses. " My iniquities have "overtaken 
me, and I was not able to see. They are multiplied above the 
hairs of my head."' My poor soul, thou art like Job on the 
dunghill; "From the sole of the foot, even to the top of the 
head,"' thou art covered with a loathsome ulcer! Hear, ye 
reprobate spirits, and be astonished; I, a miserable mortal, have 
committed more sin than many thousands of you together; and 

» Non est Deus in conspertu ; ejus inqirinat® sunt via; lllias in omnl tempore.— Ps. Hebr 
X. 5, 

« Comprehenderunt meiniqultates meae,et non potui ut viderem ; raultlpllcatse sunt super 
capiUos capitis mei.-Ps. xxxix. 13. ^ k planta pedis usque ad vertlcem.-Job. IL 7. 

Repentance on account of the Justice of God, 3 1 5 

if one deliberate, sinful thought was enough to turn so many 
countless millions of you into demons, what sort of a hideous 
demon must I then be in the sight of the God whom I have so 
often offended? If I only committed twenty sins in my life, 
they would be enough to turn twenty bright angels, if they 
could bo guilty of them, into frightful devils; what a filthy 
object my soul must then be in the sight of God, since my 
sins are beyond counting? 

Those angel3 are now in hell, and have been there for many J^J °y 
thousand years, for one momentary sin. my God, where am faith, of the 
I? Do I still live? Am I still in Thy presence, before Thy PJi«<«h°»ent 
face? Can I still hope for mercy and grace from Thee? Dare angels. 
I still raise my eyes to heaven, when I think of the terrible 
but at the same time most just revenge Thou hast taken on Thy 
angels? They have sinned, it is true; but only once, and before 
they knew anything about hell being the punishment Thou 
hast decreed against sin; before they had the least idea of such 
a thing as an eternal fire, and before any example of a reprobate 
sinner was given them, by which they might have profited. I 
(foolish and presumptuous mortal that I am!) have wantonly 
contemned a hundred times Thy holy law, and have committed 
sin after sin, although an "infallible faith teaches *me that the 
pains of hell are eternal, and reminds me that I must burn in 
them forever, if I offend God and do not keep His command- 
ments. But I have cared little for the teaching of faith; I have 
sinned often and grievously, in spite of the example of the 
angels, in spite of being assured by faith that the same punish- 
ment is in store for me. I have sinned, in spite of the many 
examples of men like myself whom I know to be now in hell on 
account of their sins, as I read in Thy own written word and in 
the writings of the Fathers of .the Church, and learn from 
different examples. Thou hast not given the rebel angels the 
least remission of their only sin, which Thou hast refused to 
foro-ive- but Thou hast often pardoned me in the sacrament of 
penance; and nevertheless I have not feared to relapse into the 
same irrievous sins. Nav, since I knew that Thy goodness and 
wonderful patience and mildness did not punish me after the 
first, second, third, twentieth, or fiftieth sin, I have been so un- 
grateful and presumptuous as to take advantage of Thy patience, 
and to sin all the more boldly. 

And finally, Lord, if I had been present with all my sins HumWe 
on my soul, at the time when Thou wert punishing the rebel *^ *^ **" 


316 Repentance on account of the Justice of God, 

of ourmai- angels, and had seen millions of them falling like lightning from 
knowieujf- lieaven into the abyss of hell, how would I not have trembled 
mentof with fear and anguish? Woe to me, I would have thought, if 
smer- ^^^^j^ ^ severe punishment is inflicted on the princes of heaven, 
because they have sinned but once in thought, what will become 
of me, a miserable and vile mortal, after so many horrible crimes? 
Kow faith represents to me the terrors of Thy vengeance on tlie 
angels, and says to me, you see v/hat happened to them? Is it 
possible for me, then, Lord, not to despair of grace or pardon 
from Thee? And, indeed, I should despair, if I considered only 
my own presumption and wickedness, and did not remember 
that Thy infinite mercy towards us poor mortals is immeasur- 
ably greater than our malice. Just reason should I have for 
despair, if I did not keep before my eyes Thee, my Eedeemer, 
who wast crucified for me, and (what Thou didst not do for the 
rebel angels) hast offered me the infinite merits of Thy precious 
Blood to wash out all mv sins, if I wish to return to Thee with 
a contrite heart, and to do sincere penance. Ah 3'es, that is the 
only ground of my hope and confidence I Strengthened and 
comforted by that hope, I prostrate myself at Thy feet, and ac- 
knowledge, in the deepest humility and with sorrow of heart, 
that I have often and grievously offended Thee. Fhave sinned, 

Jesus my Saviour; but that very name of Thine is a source of 
consolation to me! My sins are without number; but pardon 
me this once, not because I deserve it, but because Thou art a 
God of great mercy, who hast suffered death for me on the cross. 

1 freely acknowledge that I have deserved, not one, but a thou- 
sand hells. Alas, how many thousands of angels and of men 
like myself are now burning in hell, although they have not 
committed the half, or the hundredth part of the sins by which 
I have offended Thee. terrible and at the same time most 
just and righteous judgment of my God! Thou hast decreed to 
show more to one than to anotlier the mercy and grace Thou 
owest to none. Thy all-wise Providence has resolved from all 
eternity to punish with hell one man, as Thou didst the rebel 
angels, immediately on his committing the first mortal sin; nor 
is there any injustice done him, for he deserves it; another 
Thou wilt allow to commit five sins, but no more; another 
twenty, or a hundred, or a thousand, or many thousand, without 
condemning him to hell ; and Thou hast determined to do so, 
because Thou art pleased to show to one more than to another 
the mercy Thou owest to no sinner. For my part, I must ac- 

Repentaiice on account of the Justice of God, 317 

knowledge that I am amongst those who have been most fortu- 
nate in this respect. I thank Thee most humbly, God of 
mercy, that Thou hast borne with my many and grievous sins, 
and hast deferred for me the damnation that I have deserved 
like so many others! 

And for that very reason I now more vehemently bewail my Hepentance 
malice in offending Thee, my God, who hast been so good to l^^^ 
me! It is now time and more than time for me to cease offend- 
ing Thee, and not merely to avoid ever sinning again, but also 
to get rid of the weight of my sins, the measure of which may 
even now be wanting only one to be completely filled; to 
make a good confession, to renew my contrition every day, to 
give alms to the needy according to my means, to practise Chris- 
tian humility and modesty, to fast and otherwise mortify myself 
voluntarily, to bear patiently the injuries offered me by others, 
and all the trials and crosses Thou wilt send me, (ah, would 
that I had done so long since!) and to love Thee constantly 
above all things. Por that Thou hast spared me in spite of my 
many sins should not encourage me in the presumptuous hope 
that, if I again dare to sin, Thou wilt be equally merciful tp 
me. Perhaps the next sin (grant, God, that I may die even in 
this very moment before committing it!) may be my last, after 
which Thou hast determined in Thy inscrutable decrees to give 
me no further time for repentance, and to hurl me into hell 
with the rebel angels. 

no, my God, with Thy fatherly help I will not sin again! ^^^^"^ 
The example of the fallen angels will make me humble and raent. 
cautious, so that I shall fly all dangerous occasions of sin. For 
if they were not safe from sin even in heaven, how can I, a weak 
mortal inclined to evil, hope to escape it in that company and 
society, amidst those allurements, occasions, and dangers in which 
sad experience has taught me that I am only too apt to sin? 
No, Lord, I will fly even the shadow of sin, and to that end I 
will keep a guard on my senses, especially on my eyes, ears, and 
tongue, that I may neither hear, see, nor say anything that 
might give me occasion to transgress Thy commands. '* Pierce 
Thou my flesh with Thy fear," ' is my humble prayer with Thy 
servant David. Thou hast now filled me with Thy fear in the 
meditation of the fall of the angels, and that fear has taken 
possession of my mind; grant that it may also penetrate the 
very marrow of my bones, so that not a member of my body 

> Conflge timore tuo carnes meas.— Ps. czTill. 190. 

Bl 1 

318 Repentance for Sin because it offends God, 

may ever again place me in danger of offending Thee. I will 
love Thee, God of all beautjs who art worthy of all love for 
Thy own sake alone! And I will fear Thee, too, God of jus- 
tice, and by that constant love and fear I hope and trust one 
day to arrive at the place from which Thou didst expel the 
angels, that is, heaven, where I shall be able to praise Thy 
mercy forever. Amen. 





He who commits a grievous sin hates, grieves, and dishonors 
God, his heavenly Father, an ingratitude and a wickedness 
that cannot be sufficiently deplored. — Preached on the feast of 
SS. Simon and J tide. u ~-^ 

k:^ -■■■ 

Text ^ 

Qui me adit, et Patrem meum odit. — John xv. 23. 
" He that hateth Me, hateth My Father also." 


Christ Our Lord, in order to show His Apostles the extent of 
the malice with which the envious Jews hated and persecuted 
Him everywhere, makes use of the words I have quoted: ** He 
that hateth Me, hateth My Father also; " and His meaning is, 
that there is nothing more terrible than to hate His heavenly 
Father. Sinner, whoever you are, you are guilty of that malice 
and presumption whenever you commit a mortal sin; you hate 
and persecute Christ, your Saviour, like the Jews, the high 
priests, and the Scribes, inasmuch as you renew the cause of the 
death of Christ. But, cruel as your wickedness is, it does not 
finish there; you also hate and grieve His heavenly Father, who 
has adopted you as His child; and that, as you must acknowledge 
when you consider the matter reasonably, is something so ter- 
rible that it ought to move you to repent of and detest your 
Bins at once. Such is the object of my sermon to-day, by way 
of meditation for me, and you, and all sinners. Namely, 

Repentance for Sin because it offends God, 319 

Plan of Discourse. 

He who commits a grievous sin hates, grieves, arid dishonors 
God his heavenly Father, an ingratitude and a wickedness 
that cannot he sufficiently deplored. Such is the whole subject of 
this meditation. 

Heavenly Father, illumine the hearts of all here present with 
the light of the Holy Ghost, that they who have sinned may 
acknowledge their ingratitude and wickedness, and may do sin- 
cere penance; and that all others, knowing the malice of sin, 
may come to the irrevocable' determination of never offending 
Thee. This we beg of Thee through the intercession of 
Mary, the Mother of Thy Son, and of our holy guardian 

The sw^eetest and most gracious of all names is that of father, 
and when uttered by a child, it denotes a special affection, con- 
fidence, and reverence, as well as the tenderest love. Amongst 
all the obligations which can bind us to honor and love another 
in this world the greatest and most just is that which binds a 
child to his father, and it is an obligation that can never be 
sufficiently fulfilled, much less cancelled, even by the greatest 
services and the most heartfelt gratitude. For, if the son were 
to show his love for his father to the extent of giving his life for 
him, in order to save him from death; he would not yet have 
sufficiently repaid the benefit he owes him from whom he has 
received his life. For the power and strength by which he is 
able to save his father's life is a blessing that he owes originally 
to his father next to God. Hence the philosopher Aristotle 
says: *Mve can never make an adequate return to God and to 
our parents; " ' and, he continues, this obligation of holding 
one's father in all possible honor is implanted in every man 
by nature itsdf so deeply, that he who denies or refuses to ac- 
knowledge it should be brought to a sense of duty, not by 
argument, as if he were a reasonable man, but by blows, as if he 
were a fool. 

From the very beginning of the world, there never was a peo- 
ple, even amongst heathens and idolaters, living in* well-ordered 
community,who did not look on a child who dared to grieve and 
offend his father as a monster deserving of execration. Already 
in ancient times legislators had established all kinds of punish- 
ment for different crimes; there was one punishment for murder- 

* Deo et parentibas Qunquara satis rependi potest. 

Nature Im- 


plaDts In 


every child 

a special 


love and 




for his fa- 


■ -1- 

■ t 

He who 
raised his 

against his 
father was 
always held 
in execra- 
tion as a 



JT^T 'r*~'~V-^. 



And was 
punished in 
a special 
manner, by 
biitnan law. 

By the di- 
vine law. 

320 Repentaficc for Sin because it offends God, 

ers, another for robbers, another for adulterers, and so on; bnt for 
those wlio dared to lay violent hands on tlieir fallier or mother 
there is no punishment on record. And why? Is not parricide 
a far more horrible crime than thieving, adultery, or murder? 
Did they, perhaps, wish to allow such criminals to remain unpun- 
ished? No; but tliey looked on it as impossible that a reasoning 
being could so far forget himself as to be guilty of such wicked- 
ness, and therefore they thought it unnecessary to legislate 
against a crime of that kind. 

Bnt as time rolled on, and people found out that not only was 
such a crime possible, but that it was actually committed, the 
ancient Romans made a special law, according to which a parri- 
cide was condemned to be tied up in a leathern sack with a live 
ape, a viper, and a cock, and to be thrown into the sea, as one 
who was unworthy of looking up to heaven, or of remaining on 
earth. Mark, my dear brethren, the companions that the wretch 
was compelled to associate with; an ape, because that animal hiis 
the outward semblance of a man, but is in reality an unreasoning 
brute, so that the parricide might learn that he had only the ap- 
pearance of man, bnt was really lower than the brute beast. 
The viper, the most poisonous of all serpents, is a symbol of the 
odious vice of ingratitude, for it tears open tlie body of its own 
mother at its birth. The cock symbolizes shamelessness and au- 
dacity. Thus, according to that law, the wretch had to die with 
those beasts as his companions, to signify that he was far 
more ungrateful and shameless than any other monster on 


The almighty God, in order to show His detestation of such 
wicked children, commanded in the Book of Exodus that he 
who raised his hand against father or mother should be at once 
punished with death: ''He that striketh his father or mother 
shall be put to death." ' Nay, He decreed the same punishment 
against those who dared even to curse their parents: "He that 
curseth his father or mother shall die the deatli."' And death 
was the least punishment decreed against disobedience to one's 
parents: " If a man have a stubborn and unruly son, who will 
not hear the commandments of his father or mother, " such are 
the words of the divine law in the Book of Deuteronomy, "'the 
people of the city shall stone him, and he shall die, that you may 
take awav the evil out of the midst of you, and all Israel hearing 

» Qnl percuaserit palrem suum, aut matrem, morte morlatur.— Exod. xxi. 15. 
a Qui maledixerit patri suo, vel macri. morte morlatur.— IWd. 17. 

Repentance for Sin because it offends God. 321 

it may be afraid." ' I have spoken of this more at length when 
explaining the duties of children to their parents. And on what 
is this grave obligation of tlie child towards his father founded? 
On tlie fact that the child owes his life to the father as far as his 
mortal body is concerned. And is that all? Yes, there is ab- 
solutely no other reason. And for such a small benefit as that 
must the cliild remain under such deep obligations to his father 
during his whole life, and must such severe punishments be de- 
creed against those who olfend their parents? 

O Ciiristians, think of this. How great must not then be our ^^l^"^"" 
obhgation to love and honor that Father of whom Christ Our 
Siiv-rour said to His Apostles before His ascension, and in their 
persons to all of us: " I ascend to My Father and to your Father, 
to My God and to your God; "'that Father to whom we daily 
pray, '' Our Father who art in heaven." For the great God is 
in the proper sense of the word our Father, from whom we re- 
ceive our whole being, natural as well as supernatural. He is 
our Father according to nature, for He has created us to His own 
divine image, and has given us life. "Have we not all one 
Father," asks the Prophet Malachias, " hath not one God created 
us?"' Does He not feed and preserve us all as His children? 
He is our Father according to grace, for by Jesus Christ, our el- 
der Brother, He has adopted us by a nev/ birth in baptism as His 
children, and has made us lawful heirs to His property. Of 
til is adoption St. Paul writes to the Galatians, in order to give 
them an idea of the great happiness they enjoyed, and of the 
dignity to which they were raised: "But when the fulness of 
time was come, God sent His Son made of a woman, made under 
the law." To what end? " That we might receive the adoption 
of sons. And because you are sons, God hath sent the spirit of 
His Son into your hearts, crying: Abba, Father. And if a son, 
an heir also through God." * " wonderful condescension of the 
divine goodness," I must exclaim with St. Gregory, which has 
raised us poor mortals to such a dignity; "we are not worthy to 

' Si jfenuerlt homo flllura contumac^m et protervum. qui non audiatpatrls aut matris Im- 
perlura. . . lapidibus eiiin obruet populus civitatls, et morietur, ut auferatis malum de medio 
vestrl, et unlversus Israel audlens pertiraescat.— Deut. xxi. 18, 21. 

2 Ascendo ad Patrem meura et Patrem vestrum, Deum meum ft Deum vestrum. —John 
ly. 17. 

' Nnmquld non pater unus omnium nostrum? numquld non Deus unus creavlt nos?— 

Malach. ii. 10, 

•• Ubj venit plenitude temporis, misit Deus fllium suum factum e^ muliere, factum sub 
lege. . . ut adoptionem fllionim reciperemus ; quoniam autem estls fllii, misit Deus Spirltura 
fliii sui In corda vestra, clamantem : Abba, Pater. . . Quod si Alius, et haeres per Deum.— 
Gal. iv. 4.-7. 





And an In- 
finitely bet- 
ter Father, 
and more 
deserving of 
love, than 
our earthly 
fathers, as 
fur as crea- 
tion is con- 

322 Repentance for Sin because it offends God, 

be His slaves, and He has made us His friends!"' nay, His 
children. '* Behold," says St. John with jistonishnient in his 
First Epistle, '' what manner of charity the Father liuih bestowed 
npon us, that we should be called and should be the sons of 
God."' Certainly, there is not one of us mortals who should 
dare to think that, after having been born a child of wrath and 
malediction, he would be made a child of God, and would be 
able to call God his Father; no one, I say, would ever dare to as- 
pire to tliat dignity, if God Himself had not commanded us to 
call Him by that sweet name. " Thus, therefore, shall you pray," 
says Our Lord in the Gospel of St. Matthew, '' Our Father who 
art in heaven."' And therefore the priest, before saying this 
prayer in the Holy Mass, makes confession of our unworthiness 
in the following words: '' instructed by Thy saving precepts, and 
following Thy divine directions, we presume to say: Our Father 
who art in heaven." * Consequently God is our Father. 

And what kind of a Father is He? ye mortal and earthly 
fathers, no matter how great is your natural love and goodness 
towards your children, no matter how just your claims to their 
reverence, obedience, and love, yet, in compacison to our heaven- 
ly Father, you must humbly acknowledge that you do not even 
deserve the name; for your only title to it is the fact that your 
children owe their mortal bodies to you, which, as St. Thomas 
says, " are the source of sin, the cause of concupiscence, and the 
origin of guilt."' And not even that much would they owe to 
you without the help of God, by whose power all things exist. As 
far as the nobler part of our nature, the soul, is concerned, in 
which the life and substance of man principally consist, you 
have had nothing whatever to do with that; the only Author and 
Father of the soul is God, our heavenly Father, who created it out 
of nothing, without the intervention of any creature, and made 
it to His image and likeness. This beautiful spirit is breathed 
forth from the mouth of God and is endowed witli a wonderful 
memory, and with understanding and will, so that it moves the 
body and governs it as its servant. You must say to your chil- 
dren, like the heroic mother of theMachabees, when she was en- 
couraging her seven sons to bear their torments with fortitude, 

» O mlra dlvln» bonitatls dlpmatlo! servi dlpml non suraus, et amid vocamnr I 

> VIdete qualem charitatem dedlt nobis Pater, ut flUI Del noiniuemur et slmus-I. John 

• Sic erffo vos orabltls : Pater noster qui es In coells.-Matt. vl. 9. 

• Praeceptls salutarlbus moniti, et divlna Institutlone formati, audemus dlcere: Pater 

noster qui es In coells. 
6 Materiam corporis causam libidlnls, orijflnem reatus. 

Repentance for Sin because it offends God, 323 

lift up your eyes to heaven, my children, '' for I neither gave you 
breath, nor soul, nor life, neither did I frame the limbs of every 
one of you; but the Creator of the world, that formed the nativ- 
ity of "man." ' I am your mother according to the flesh; but 
the noblest part of you, your immortal soul, is a masterpiece of 
God, your heavenly Father. 
' When yoa, fathers, have contributed your share to the ex- Asjarw. 
istence of your children, what do you do to preserve them intiomscon 
life? To answer in a few words, nothing at all. Nor is it in cemed. 
your power to prolong their lives for a single instant; for they 
must depend altogether on the will of their heavenly Father, 
who can take their lives away when and how He pleases, and who 
every moment gives them, as it were, a new life by preserving 
them. It is true that by your daily care and labor you provide 
for their temporal wants; but even these, again, are free gifts of 
their heavenly Father, and if He did not bestow them on you, 
all your toil and diligence wmild be fruitless, so that, although 
you were to work day and night, you and your children would 
at last die of hunger. Therefore you must cry out daily to your 
Father in heaven, " Give us this day our daily bread." Besides, 
it is principally during their childhood and early youth that you 
have to provide for your children; when they have once grown 
up, they are no longer in need of you. But God never for a 
moment lays down His fatherly office; from the first breath your 
children draw, down to the last moment of their lives. He never 
ceases bestowing on them the protection dfiid care which are so 
necessary to them. In all places, and where it is very often im- 
possible for you to look after them; at all times, in the dark 
night as well as in the clear day, the Eye of His Providence 
watches over their welfare and safety. If your children had to 
depend on your care alone, how often might they not have 
broken their necks by a sudden mishap; how often might they 
not have been drowned, or striken by a thunder-bolt, or, when 
they were actually in the state of sin, dragged off by the demon 
to hell? It was God, their heavenly Father, who warded off all 
those dangers from them and from you, when you were not even 
thinking of them, and who every moment heaped benefits on 
them. It is God, their heavenly Father, who has given to each 
and every one of your children the infallible assurance that, if 
a mother were to forget her son, and not to have pity on him, 

> Neque enim ego spiritum et animam donavl vobis et vltam, et sinjiulorum membra non 
CRO Ipsa compegl; sed enIm mundi Creator, qui formavtt homlnis natlvItatem.-U. Machah. 
ViL 22, S3. 



And train- 

324 Repenta7ice for Siu because it offends God, 

*'yet will not I forget thee: behold I have graven thee in my 
hands. Thy walls are always before my eyes." ^ 

Your greatest care, fathers, is devoted to the perishable 
bodies and tiie temporal welfare of voiir children: vour eiforts 
are directed to giving tiiem a good training according to the 
ideas of the world; and it often happens that yon thus murder 
their souls most cruelly, inasmuch as you do not keep them from 
the dangerous occasions of sin, nor punish their faults as you 
ought, but train them up by word jind example to all kinds of 
vanity and luxury, to lying and deceit, to cursing and swearing, 
and other abominable vices, so that it would have been far better 
for them to have been bi-ougl)t up in a wilderness by a brute 
beast, than by you, and they will one day be compelled to curse 
you as the cause of their eternal damnation. There are some 
of you fathers who, besides neglecting the soulsof your cliildren, 
treat them as if they were dogs, and beat them as if thev were 
beasts of burden, punishing them for faults of which you your- 
selves are gnilty. There arc some of you fathers who, by con- 
stant idleness, unnecessary expense in dresrand useless enter- 
tainments, gambling and drinking, steal awayv^the bread out of 
the mouths of your children, and reduce them to poverty, so 
that, instead of loving and honoring you, as they ought, they will 
carse and revile you. Thus you destroy, not only the souls of 
your children, but also their bodies, as far as their temporal 
prosperity is concerned. Oh, how much better is the Father 
they have in heaven, who always provides for the welfare of 
their bodies by giving them the necessaries of life, but especially 
is concerned for the welfare of their immortal souls! To this end 
are directed all the arrangements of Ilis all-wise Providence* 
those good inspirations, which He gives them partly immediately, 
and partly by means of the holy angels whom He has appointed 
to be their protectors and guardians in the pilgrimage of this 
life; those salutary exhortations and warnings which He places 
on the lips of preachers and confessors, that they may deter them 
from sin and lead them on the path of virtue to heaven. Such, 
too, is His intention in visiting them with crosses and trials, for 
these are all so many proofs of the love of His fatherly heart, 
and He wishes thereby to humble them, or, if they are in the 
state of sin, to bring them to a knowledge of themselves, that 
they may return by a speedy repentance to their Father who is 

1 Ego tamen non oblivlscar tui ; ecce in manibus mels d^cripsi te : murl tui coram oculis 
meis semper.— Isa. xllx. 15, 16. 

Repentance for Sin because it offe7tds God. 325 

in heaven or, if they are in the state of grace, to try their 
patience, and to increase their virtues and merits. 

Finally, what sort of an inheritance have your children to ex- 
pect from you, fathers, on account of which they should be 
under such great obligations to you? Does it not often consist 
of ill-o^otten gains, which they must restore, if they do not wish 
to lose their souls? Does it not often consist of debts, which 
they will hardly ever be able to pay? Is it not often a law-suit 
that eats up all their savings? Is it not sometimes mourning 
and lamentation^ and nothing else, that j'ou have to leave them 
when you die? But even supposing that you leave them spacious 
lands and vineyards, full granaries and cellars and well-furnished 
coffers, so that they can lead a comfortable life, what is it worth, 
after all? It is certainly a gift of God, who has blessed you 
with temporal prosperity; but what is it, I ask, when compared 
to the inheritance tlieir heavenly Father has in store for them? 
Eternal riches and treasures, eternal joys and pleasures, eternal 
and endless goods are what He will give His chosen children. 
**Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into 
the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that 
love Him." * Therefore, I say again, earthly fathers, that you 
are not deserving of the name when compared with God, our 
heavenly Father. And that is the meaning of those words of 
Our Lord in the Gospel of St. Matthew: "And call none 3'our 
father upon earth; for one is your Father, who is in heaven," " 
as if to say, when you are comparing one man with another, 
then, indeed, you may say, this man is my father, but when you 
are making a comparison between God and man, then he whom 
you call your father is not deserving of the name, because he 
has contributed but verv little to vour existence, while God 
gives you a temporal and eternal, a spiritual and a material, a 
natural and a supernatural life. Therefore one is our Father, 
who is in heaven. 

What conclusion are we to draw from this, my dear brethren? 
Certainly the following, which no one can reasonably dispute: 
if a child is bound by a grievous obligation to obey his mortal 
father humbly in all things, although he receives so little from 
him, to honor him under all circumstances, and to love him 
sincerely; if it is a universally received opinion that, no matter 

As far as 
their inher- 
itance is 


It is a fear- 
ful crime, 
then, to dis- 
honor and 
offend this 

^ Oculus non vidit, nee aurls audivit, nee in cor homlnis ascendit, qusB,pr8eparavit Deus lis, 
qui dillgunt ilium.— I. Cor. il. 9. 

* Patrem nolite vocare vobls super terram ; unus est enim Pater vester, qui In coelis est. 
—Matt, xxili. 9. 

Tbat is 
done by 
every one 
who com- 
mits sin. 

326 Repentance for Sin because it offends God, 

what services he renders his father, he can never discharge fully 
this obligation; how much more, then, are we not bound, nay, is 
not our obligation infinitely greater, to show to onr heavenly 
Father the homage of our most punctual obedience, our deepest 
reverence, and our most tender love? And if the very name of 
father aggravates the mali«?e of an insult or injury offered to him 
who bears it by his son or daughter, so much that it is looked 
on as intolerable; if all human and divine laws are unanimous in 
condemning as a monster and in sentencing to death by stoning, 
drowning, or burning him who dares to raise his hand against 
his father to injure him, not to speak of murdering him; if an 
undutiful child is cursed by God Himself; where, then, can we 
find words expressive enough to describe the abominable wicked- 
ness of the wretcli who ventures to dishonor, grieve, and insult 
his most kind and loving heavenly Father? ''Ah," says St. 
Augustine, "• what a cruel thing it is to offend," to insult and 
rebel against** such a Father, or to do anything against His 


Hear, sinner; such an undutiful child have you been, when- 
ever you committed a mortal sin. Instead of obeying your 
heavenly Father with child-like submission you have rebelled 
against Him, and said by your actions: I will not do as Thou 
commandest me. In place of the filial reverence you owe Him, 
you have kicked against Him like a stubborn hoi'se, and have 
trampled His law and His inspirations under foot, thus showing 
that you did not cure anything for Him, and that His threats 
and commands were alike disregarded by you. Instead of loving 
Him, as a child should, you have planted as many daggers in 
His fatherly heart as you have committed sins; and you have 
torn to pieces before His very face the beautiful robe that He 
gave you in baptism, as a sign that He wished to adopt you as 
His child; and thus you gave Him to understand plainly enough 
that you did not desire to be His child. Like the prodigal in 
the Gospel, you have run away from Him into a sti-ange land, 
and there you have attached yourself to another father, whose 
child you preferred to be, namely to him of whom Christ says in 
the Gospel to the Pharisees: " You are of your father the devil." ' 
See what a fine exchange you have made, and whom you have 
perf erred to serve as your father, instead of your loving heavenly 
Father! In his service you have squandered all your patrimony, 

» Talem Patrem offendere, contra ejus voluntatem aliquld wmmlttere, quamestcrudelel 
> Vos ex patre diabolo estis.— John vlii. 44. 

Repentance for Sin because it offends God. 327 

your supernatural gifts and graces, the merits you had gained, 
and tiie inheritance that awaited you in heaven. And all that 
you have done, not like the prodigal, in a foreign country, out of 
your Father's sight, but before His very face, under His all-see- 
ing eye, which nothing can escape. Ah, how cruel thus to insult 
such a loving Father! What does your heart say to you, when 
you think of this? Is it possible that it does not burst with 


Ah, my Lord and my God, I am that unthankful, undutiful, 
and heartless son, who have so often and for such a long time 
treated Thee so cruelly ! How great and excessive my presump- 
tion! How great and excessive the patience with which Thou hast 
borne with my wantonness for so many years! If Thou hadst 
never taken the least care of me, if Thou hadst allowed me to 
be born among heathens and Tui'ks, even then I should have 
been bound to serve Thee with all humility and devotion. If 
Thou hadst made me poor and miserable, blind, crippled, or lame, 
I should still be obliged to honor Thee as my supreme God and 
to love Thee with all my heart. But I have treated most shame- 
fully a Father such as Thou art, who hast loved me so tenderly 
in preference to so many thousands, and given me such extra- 
ordinary graces, as if I were the favored Benjamin among Thy 
childrjn! Oh, what cruelty I have been guilty of! When children 
act undutifully, people say to them, fie! are you not ashamed of 
your conduct? You have most loving and respectable parents; 
your father and mother have spared neither trouble nor expense 
to procure for you a becoming position in life, and now you act 
so undutifully towards them! What a shame for you! Ah, my 
soul, art thou not ashamed? Thou hast a good, kind Father in 
heaven, who has, so to speak, labored most indefatigably and worn 
Himself out for thy sake and for thy eternal advantage, and 
thou hast offended Him most grossly, and insulted and grieved 
Him. How canst thou dare to address this God as thy Father, 
and to say to Him, "Our Father who art in heaven?" With 
what kind of a faith canst thou say, **I believe in God the 
Father? " Must thou not exclaim with the humble St. Bernard, 
" how can I, such a wicked son, dare to raise my eyes to such a 

good Father?"' 

eyes, where are your tears? For what will you shed them, 
if not for this? There was once a youth who dared, in a fit of 
passion (ah, I bum with shame when I think of it!) to spurn his 

» Quanam f ronte attoUo oculos ad vultum Patrls tam bonl, tarn malus flUus ? 

What in- 
and wicked- 
ness in the 

Who has, 
just reason 
for bewail- 


Ing his sins. 
Shown by a 

And sbonld 
tbem all the 
more, be- 
cause his 
Father is 
ready to re- 
ceive him 
with love. 

328 Repentance for Sin because it offends God. 

mother from him with his foot. When his passion was over he 
realized what he had done, and, full of shame and repentance, 
went to St. Antony of Padua, and disclosed to him in confes- 
sion the siu ho had' committed. The holy man reproved the 
youth in these few words, which showed, however, the zeal with 
which he was inflamed: *^ Ah, my son," said he, "to spurn 
your own mother with your feet! You could not treati a dog 
worse! A child to behave thus to the mother that bore him! 
The foot tiiat committed such a crime deserves to be cut off, so 
that not the least use can be made of it in future.*' These few 
vrords sank deep into tlie heart of the young man, and the con- 
sideration of his abominable wickedness filled him with such an 
excess of sorrow that, when he went home, he actually took an 
axe, and, laying the offending foot on a chair, cut it off, the loss 
of blood ensuing thereon causing him to faint away and fall to 
the ground half dead. Antony having been sent for to wit- 
ness this tragedy, reproved the intemperate zeal of the young 
man, and, taking the foot in his hand, applied it to the limb, 
to which it immediately became miraculously united. my 
heavenly Father, if I had a proper knowledge of the wickedness 
I am guilty of when I spurn Tlieefrom me so often, what ven- 
geance should I not take on myself? I should tear out the eyes 
that so often offend Thee by impure looks. I should cut out the 
tongue that insults Thee by cursing and swearing, by slander- 
ing mv neighbor and Gcivins^ him scandal, bv unchaste words and 
songs. I should cut off both hands that offend Thee by thieving 
and taking improper liberties. I should lop off the feet that 
bear me into dangerous company, where I so often do what 
Thou knowest, in despite of Thee. I should burn to ashes my 
whole bodv, which has insulted Thee by all kinds of vice. But 
all this would not be enough to restore Thy honor, which I have 
lessened by my misconduct. Nor dost Thou require it of mo; for 
Thou art satisfied with a child-like and loving repentance on 

my part. 

Children who have committed a grievous fault do not dare to 
present themselves before their father, lest they should be pun- 
ished; if they hear his voice, they run away and hide, so that 
he may not see them; during the night they dream of nothing 
but rods and whips with which their fault is to be punished; and 
if the least noise is made at the door of their room, they start up 
in a fright, thinking it is their father, who is coming to give them 
what they deserve. And Thou, my heavenly Father, how art 

Repentance for Sin because it offends God. 329 

Thou disposed towards me, after I have so recklessly and wan- 
tonlv offended Thee for so many years? Dare I appear in Thy 
sight? O'the unspeakable goo<lness and love of Thy fatherly 
heart! Thou awaitest mo, rendy to receive me when I return to 
Thee; Thou callost out to me and invitest me to look at Thee 
with a repentant heart arul with child-like love. I see Thee al- 
ready (as Thou Thyself assurest me in the parable of the prodi- 
gal son) running towards me with outstretched arms to embrace 
me and to press me to Thy fatherly bosom, not otherwise than 
if 1 had alwavs been Thy most obedient and loving child. To 
show in the sight of heaven Thy joy at my return. Thou pre- 
parost for me a public and most magiflcent banquet, in which 
Thou givest me, not a fatted calf, but the Flesh and Blood of 
Thy own Son, our elder Brother, Jesus Christ, as my food and 
drink, with the assurance that Thou hast forgotten forever all 
my grievous transgressions against Thee, and that Thou wilt 
henceforth look on me and love me as Thy dear child. my 
heart, how dost thou not break with sorrow at having offended 
and grieved such a good and loving Father! Eyes, turn your- 
selve*^ into fountains of tears, that I may truly say, with the peni- 
tent David: '' My eyes have sent forth springs of water, because 
they have not kept Thy law."' Shameless face of mine, cover 
thyself with confusion;' life of mine, be wasted away in sorrow, 
and my remaining years, be ye spent in sighs. " 

Do you, my tongue, continue to cry out with that penitent ^^^^^^^^ 
Count of Anjou, ** Father, I have sinned."' I have offered pardon, and 
Thee many insults! I have raised my wicked hand against P^n>o«e of 
Thee! This penitent count was going on a pilgrimage to ^g^t^ ^fter 
Jerusalem, and he took with him, as the companions of ^^istheexam- 
journev, two pious servants of God. Before setting out, hej^^p^^j. 
made them promise on oath that they would do all he should tent, 
command them, a promise which they religiously kept. When 
they came to the lioly sepulchre, he ordered one of them to tie 
a rope round his neck and to drag him to the sepulchre, while the 
. other had lo scourge him until he fell exhausted to the ground. 
While doing this penance his cry was : *' Father, I have 
sinned." I have committed a most honible crinre ! In this 
grave lay ray Father, whose life I have taken ; this grave-stone 

» Exitus aqua rum deduxeruntoculi mei : quia non custodlerunt legem tuam.— Ps. cxvlli. 
' Opcniit conf usio faciem meam. -Ibid. Ixvlii. 8. 
« Defeclt in dolo'-e vita mea, et anni mei In Remitlbus.— Ibid. xxx. 11. 
* Pater, peccavl. 


330 Repentance for Sin because it offends God. 

reproaches me with the murder of my' Father^ whom I have 
slain by my sins ! He then sank to the ground, not on account 
of the pain caused by the scourging, (for his companions, moved 
with pity and shedding copious tears, struck him as gently as 
possible !) but solely at the thought inspired by the words, 
^* Father, I haye sinned." Alas, he would say, "I have sinned 
grievously and murdered Thee ! What have I done ? 
heavenly Father, if I dare to call Thee still by that name, for I 
have been a most undutiful and wicked son, with contrite and 
sorrowful heart, prostrate before Thee, I cry out to Thee : 
Father, I have sinned against Heaven and* before Thee; I bewail 
bitterly, not my own misfortune, great as it is, but the fact that 
I have repeatedly olTended Thee, my most loving Father. I am 
not worthy to be called Thy son, because I have not the heart of 
a son. I do not deserve to be looked on by Thee with the eyes of 
a father ; nevertheless, do not consider my wickedness, but the 
infinite mercy of Thy fatherly heart. Do not be to me a stern 
judge, although I deserve that Thou shouldst be so to jne, but 
be a good Father according to Thy mercy. If Thou wilt punish 
me for my sins, I acknowledge that I have deserved it a 
thousand times ; and behold, I submit myself completely to Thy 
fatherly chastisements; punish me as Thou wilt and as Thou 
knowcst to be for my advantage ; but one thing I beg of Thee : 
give to me and preserve in me the heart of a true child, so that 
I may serve Thee in future with all submission, not so much 
through fear of punishment or hope of reward, as through 
perfect love for Thee, so that I may always be most obedient to 
Thy holy w^ill, in all circumstances, for the remainder of my 
life. Amen" 

On the Lnsa of one's Soul as a Motive for Contriiion, see the 
preceding First Part. On account of Presumption in Despising 
God, see the Second Part. On account of the Goodness and 
Merc?/ of God to /cards the Sinner, see the Eleventh and Twelfth 
Sermons in this Part. On account of Offending God, icho is 
present everywhere, see the Fifty-seventh sermon in this Part. 
On account of Provoking the Anger of the Almighty God of 
Iiifinite Goodness, who is worthy of all Love, see the following 
Fourth Part. On account of Losing Heaven and running the 
risk of Eternal Torments^ see the Fifth Part. On account of 
again Crucifying our Saviour, see the Sixth Part. 

MENT. ^ 


He who wishes to rise from spiritual death in the sacrament 
of penance must have : 1. A firm purpose of avoiding all 
mortal sins ; 2. A firm purpose of avoiding all mortal sins 
completely and for all iimQ.—Preaclted on the fifteenth Sunday 
after Pentecost. 

Resedit qui erat rnortnus et coepit /o7?u'.— Luke vii. 15. 
*•' He that was dead sat up, and began to speak." 

These were proofs that established beyond a doubt that the 
young man who was dead was really restored to life: *'He 
that was dead sat up," and, that no one might think it was a 
delusion, *Mie began to speak," as if to say to the people who 
were standing round : see, I can move ; I can speak to you ; I 
am restored to life. Would to God, my dear brethren, that all 
who are dead were thus restored to life ! I am alluding now 
to sinners whose souls are dead, and who try to recover sanc- 
tifying grace inythe sacrament of penance. Would to God, I 
say, that the amendment of their lives were always there to 
prove that their resurrection was not a mere delusion ! But 
how many are deluded on this point ! How many are there of 
whom we might say with truth, when they come out of the 
confessional, what we read in the Gospel of to-day : *' Behold, 
a dead man was carried out " ? He went in dead, and he comes 
out in the same state ; his repentance was only an apparent 

881 ( 


is of no 
avail with- 
out a firm 

332 The Nahi re of the Pu rpose of A mendmeiit. 

one. And this occurs eitlier because a grievous and wilful fault 
has been committed in tiie examen of conscience, or through 
want of a true supernatural sorrow for sin, of which we have 
already treated ; or else through want of a firm purpose of 
amendment, which is the tliird requisite to a good confession. 
The nature of this purpose shall form the subject of to-day's 
instruction, as follows : 

Plan of Discourse. 

He who wishes to rise from spiritual death in the sacrament of 
'penance must have a firm purpose nf avoiding all mortal sins, as 
we shall see in the first part. He must have a firm purpose of 
nvoidinr/ all mortal sins cumjjletcly and for all time, as toe shall 
see in the second part. 

Tiiat all sinners may have this purpose, we beg of Thee, 
Lord, whose word can call the dead to life, to grant us all 
Thy grace througJi the intercession of Thy Mother/Mary and 
of the holy guardian angels. l^^ : . 

Just as true contrition does not consist in words that are 
uttered by the mouth, whether by heart or read out of a prayer- 
book, nor in sighs and tears, but in an act of the will by which, 
av^/Li ^^^^^ having acknowledged the malice of my sins, I hate and 
mortal siu. detest them all from a supernatural motive, and wish from my 
heart that I had never committed them, so also the purpose of 
amendment that I make in presence of God and of my confessor 
does not consist in the words I speak, but in an earnest and 
present determination of my will, for a supernatural motive, not 
to commit again a single mortal sin in any way whatever, for 
the sake of any person, pleasure, or profit, and to use all the 
necessary efforts to carry out this determination. If this firm 
purpose is wanting, repentance is of no avail, confession is 
useless^ and the absolution received is invalid, so that the 
conscience remains burdened with sin as before, according to the 
present arrangements of divine Providence, because, as the 
Council of Trent says, true repentance requires not merely a 
detestation of one's sins, but also a firm purpose of amending 
one's life. Just as you would have little chance of regaining the 
favor of a prince whom you have grossly insulted, no matter 
how sorry you are for having done so, if you give him reason to 
believe that yon are ready to repeat the oflfence, so, also, you 
cannot hope to be received into the friendship of the great God 
whom you have offended, and who considers not outward signs. 

The Nature of the Purpose of Amendme7zt, 333 . 

i;nt the heart, unless you are seriously determined to avoid all 
mortal sin. There is no Catholic who doubts this truth, my 
dear brethren, for even little children learning their catechism 
know that a firm purpose of amendment is required, along with 
other things, for the valid reception of the sacrament of 


But, alas! if I ever had cause to fear that countless confessions Many know 
are of no avail for the forgiveness of sins, I certainly have reason Hearts uiat 
for that fear now, on account of the want of this sincere purpose, they have 
For, of the numbers who go to confession, how few there are ^^^"^ 
who make an earnest attempt to amend their lives? How many 
there are who say, I am heartily sorry for my sins; how few who 
miike a firm resolution to avoid sin in future! They all sing tc 
the same tune; I firmly purpose to avoid all sin, and to amend 
my life, such are the words they utter with their mouths; but 
what do their hearts say? Ask your own conscience. Do you 
not often think, when saying those words, I shall never be able 
to do as I say; I cannot give up this or that? I will amend, says 
the mouth; but I cannot look favorably on that man whom i 
have borne hatred to for such a long time, and much less can i 
say anything good about him. So thinks the heart. I will 
amend, says the mouth; but when difficulties arise at home i 
will not abstain from cursing and swearing. So thinks the 
heart. I will amend, says the mouth; but next Sunday, as usual, 
1 will go to the ale-house, and get drunk. So thinks the heart. 
I will amend, says the mouth; but if I happen to be in that per- 
son's company, which is very likely to be the case, I will not 
abstain from taking impure liberties. So thinks the heart. 
What kind of a firm determination of the will is that, when one 
knows in his conscience that he does not intend keeping his 
promise of amendment? 

I firmly purpose to amend my life. There are others who others say 
make use of those words before confession; but in the confes- amind.* 
sional itself they betray themselves and show by their own words 
that they are not in earnest. They say, for instance: I have a 
bad habit of cursing my husband, or wife, or children, or ser- 
vants. Now speak the truth and tell me, is it really your 
intention to do your best to give up that hellish language, by 
which you scandalize your children, and teach them to imitate 
you, although you are bound before God to bring them up to 
virtue? You say: I have hitherto lived in disunion with my 
husband, or wife, or neighbor. Are you really determined in 

■ ■^wjj.yjw !■ *v-*r»'^ 

334 The Nature of the Purpose of Amendment, 

fr.ture to preserve peace and harmony, and to live in conitiffal 
and nei.^bborly love and friendship, according to the law or 
Christ, and to bear patiently with the faults of others? You say: 
I have got drunk so often since my last confession, and when in 
that state I am quarrelsome, or cruel towards the members of my 
family, or I am likely to commit sins of impurity. Are yon 
firmly resolved to abstain from drink in future, and to avoid 
those companions and houses that would be apt to lead you into 
sin? You say: T have often kept for myself a considerable quan- 
tity of material that was given me for a certain work. Are you 
honestly determined to give up that unjust practice? You accuse 
yourself of impure looks and desires, of unchaste words and 
ponjrs, of actions and touches that one may not speak of. Are 
you'firmly resolved never to be guilty of those sins again, nor i^ 
allow any one to take improper liberties witii you? 
But show Answer my question, all of you. Have you that firm deter- 
tbattheydo jnjj^.^tion? Ah, ves, they say, sometimes with a deep sigh. And 
notmeaait. ^^,^^^ ^^^ ^^^^ sighing about? Ah, Father, it is so Mrd to avoid 
cursinjr; the children behave in such a way that one cannot 
avoid it. That is a fine purpose of amendment, indeed! How 
can you resolve to avoid during the remainder of your life that 
which you are firmly persuaded you cannot avoid? I must go 
to the ale-house on Sundays and holy-days; otherwise my com- 
rades will laugh at me, and will have nothing to do with me if i 
act differently from them in this respect. 1 cannot live in peace 
with my husband or wife, or with that man; I was not the cause 
of the quarrel; it was he who first provoked me. Father, you do 
not understand how we have to manage in our trade; we must 
keep something now and then, over and above what is due to us; 
if not, we are hardly paid enough for our work, and we havfe 
wives and fannlies to support. Father, what am I to do? If I 
give up this intimacy, or refuse to allow that person to commit 
those sinful actions with me, how am I to live? I cannot help 
myself; I have no pleasure in such things, but am driven to 
them by necessity. Fine penitents those are, indeedl And a 
fine purpose they have to amend their lives, and never to sin 
a.!?:ainl Of course, that purpose comes from their hearts! But 
how can that be, when, as you yourselves acknowledge, yon are 
compelled to sin. Away with you! You have not a particle of 
resolution to avoid sin, and therefore you are not true penitents. 
otbcTshave I purpose to amend my life. That is what others say. But 
.oniyineffl. t^jgy^ too, are wanting in firmness of purpose; their desires to 

The Nature of the Purpose of A ?nendment. 335 

amend are worthless and inefficacious, such as St. Augustine ^c^^ous de- 
acknowledges that he himself had, before he became converted avTdsii 


in earnest. There is many a one who feels the gnawing worm 
of conscience; the injustice or impurity in which he has been 
Hving for years begins to tire him; he knows that he is in a most 
dan<^erous state; the hell that he sees almost open before him 
fills him with anguish, and he readily acknowledges that he can- 
not long continue in the way of sin. Ah, he sighs, would that 
I were freed from this miserable state! \Yould that I had never 
seen or known that person! li I only could get rid of this 
wretched habit! And meanwhile he goes on as usual; he cannot 
make up his mind to overcome himself, or to use the proper 
means to amend his life. His purpose consists in mere desires, 
which are like the weather-cock on the steeple of a church, that 
turns round in every direction, according to the wind, but is not 
to be moved from its place, nevertheless. Such a sinner would 
like to amend, but he does not wish it in reality; he would like 
to avoid sin, but at the same time to gratify his wicked pas- 
sions'; he would like to love God above all things, with his whole 
heart, and at the same time to place no restraint on his love for 
creatures; he would like to enter on the way to heaven, and 
still to keep on the broad path that leads to hell; in a word, he 
would like to do penance, and amend his life, but he does not 
wish it earnestly, for he does not do it. 

And what is the use of that? -The sluggard willeth and ^^^^l^^ 
willeth not,"' savs the Wise Man. It is not enough to say, I wish to 
would like to do it; you must say, I will; I am in earnest about it, avoid it. 
and I will make use of the proper means. There would be very 
little use in a merchant sitting down in his shop and raying, I 
would like to be rich; nor in the soldier saying, I would like to 
gain the victory; nor in the student saying, I would like to be at 
the head of the school, and to win the golden book at the end of 
the year. All this -would like" is not of the least help to 
them. They must set to work and labor, or fight, or study 
earnestly, if they wish to succeed. Hell is filled with such 
fruitless wishes and desires, which, if they were capable of 
restoring a sinner to the state of grace, would soon convert the 
abode of death into the mansion of life, and the prison of the 
damned into a paradise of joys. Sinner, are you in earnest 
about being converted and doing penance? Then you must say 
from your heart, with the penitent David; -I said: Now have 

1 Vult et non vult plffcr — Prov. xlil. 4. 



6 T/ie Nature of the Purpose of Amendment, 

I begun;"' I am fully determined to avoid all sin, and to 
amend my life. Now I have begun; the change f^r the better 
has already commenced. Ah, yon think, if I only cOiild do that! 
But you can do it. You should rather say, if I only wished to 
do it. You do not wish to do it, and it is there the fault lies. 
We read in the Gospel of St. Luke that the guests who were 
invited to the feast began to make excuse: ''And they began 
all at once to make excuse." The first said, " I have bought a 
farm, and must needs go out and see it. And another said, I 
have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to try them;'' but the 
third made it appear an utter impossibility for him to go: " I 
have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come."' But St. 
Matthew, who relates the same parable in a different manner, 
gives in a few words the true cause of their remaining away, and 
shows that their excuses were worthless: "They would not 
come," ' he says. He thus gives us to understand that the excuses 
we allege for not amending our lives, and which ar-g founded on 
our weakness, or evil inclinations, or on temptations, habits, and 
necessity, are referred by the all-seeing God to the one chief 
cause, ''they would not come;" they do not amend, because 
they do not wish to amend; they do not abstain from cursing, 
drunkenness, hatred, injustice, and impurity, because they do 
not wish to abstain. In a word, the earnest purpose is wanting 

to them. 
They could And, in God's name, what is there to prevent you from amend- 
J^y°^,y ing, if you wish to do so? Has it become impossible for you to 
wished. keep the commandments? Ah, what can we not do to secure some 
Mewmpie temporal gain, because we are in earnest about it! How readily 
anexamp . ^^^ Q^.^,j.^jQjj^g oursclves, and what difficulties we are ready to face! 
In former times, when the celebrated town of Ostende was be- 
ing besieged, there was a soldier who had grown so habituated 
to^cursing and blaspheming that, although he was often warned, 
lie used to say openly that he could not give up the habit. He 
had consumed all his provisions, and was forced to ask alms 
from the military chaplain; "yes," said the priest, "I will give 
you a gold piece, if you follow me for an hour wherever I go, and 
do not utter a curse during the whole time," The soldier agreed, 
and the priest went on purpose right through the camp, holding 

» Wxl: nunc coepl.— Ps. Ixxvl. 11. 

« Et coeperunt slraul omnes excusare : vlllam eml, et necesse habeo exire et videre Illam ; 
Jufja boura emi qutnque, et eo probare Ilia ; uxorera duxl, et Ideo non possum venire.— Luke 

xlv. 18, 19, 20. 
» Nolebant venire.— Matt. xxil. 8. 

.1MrLi«l[>.T.»_i!ii,Wn>.rr..ik^T- . ...^^^^^^^ 

The Nature of the Purpose of A^nendment. 'i^:^^^ 

the piece of money in his hand. He visited one tent after an- 
other, wherever he found most of the soldiers assembled, and 
when they saw their comrade following him, they commenced 
to jeer at him as a fool. The soldier was boiling over with rage, 
and was frequently on the point of breaking out into some of 
his favorite curses; but (who would believe it?) he restrained . 
himself perfectly, and not only held his tongue, but kept biting 
his lips, lest he should forget himself. When the hour was up, 
and the soldier had stood the laughter of his comrades without 
breaking his promise, the priest gave him the piece of money, 
with these few earnest words of warning: " you see now, my good 
friend, that you might have corrected your bad habit, if you 
wished; and what you have done for the sake of a piece of 
money, in spite of the great provocation you were exposed to, 
can you not do it for the sake of God and heaven, since, generally 
speaking, there is nothing to provoke you to curse or blaspheme ? " 

my dear brethren, how many sinners there are who think 
and say, I cannot amend; I cannot avoid this and that! I wish 

1 could make use of a similar means to show them that they can 
amend. If they would only, for instance, give a penny to some 
poor person whenever they curse or swear, or send some money 
to a charitable institution when they fall into their accustomed 
sins, I am sure that in a short time they would find a great 
change for the better ; and they would have to acknowledge that 
they were unable to amend hitherto because they had ro w^sh to 
amend, and that, as they were wanting in this firm purpose, 
their confessions were invalid. 

Finally, there are others who say before confes's^on, I am othersshow 
firmly resolved to amend my life; and they fla>tor themselves ^J^^at 
that they have a firm purpose, while they show in reality that they have 
there is nothing farther from their minds. For, if I ask one of "^J^''"' 
those penitents, why have you been always? rnnning from one 
confessor to another? Why have you beor. looking out for a 
priest who never gives you a word of advico; who knows not the 
state of vour conscience; who is ignopint of the length of time 
you have been subject to this bad habit, and who, not being 
aware that you are in the pror^mate occasion of sin, cannot 
remind yon of your duty in that respect? AYhat is the meaning 
of that, unless that you have not a firm purpose of amendment, 
and that you are not prepared to do all that God requires of you? 
Again; the same gviovous sins of which you now accuse your- 
^olf^ -^T^v ba^p often confessed before; and you have been confess- 

338 The Nature of the Purpose of Amendment. 

ing them for the last six, seven, or eight months, or even for the 
Isist two or three years, or longer; and after all that time 3011 are 
just as much addicted to vice as before: how is it possible, how 
can any sensible man imagine that you ever had a sincere pur- 
pose of amendment, since there was not the least sign of any 
improvement in you? If a man is really resolved to avoid a 
certain tlii'ig, lie can easily find means to carry out his inten- 
tion. If vou are determined not to fall into the mud, vou know 
how to avoid the stone over which you stumbled before; for, as 
t!ie i)roverb says, even the stupid ass does not stumble twice 
over the same stone. If you pour some boiling water once or 
twice over a dog that you wish to drive out of your kitchen, you 
will find that he will not come back again. But you return 
for the third, sixth, or twentieth time, with the same sins on 
your conscience, after having fallen over the same stone, or be- 
ins: scalded with the same water. Who can believe that you 
were in earnest about amending your life? Youp purpose was 
evidently nothing more than empty words, to which yon did not 
attach tlie least meaning. You have kept on saying, to-morrow, 
to-morrow; and thns you have put off the almighty God from 
one day to another, making, as it were, a fool of Him: ** he is a 
scoffer," says St. Augustine, ''and not a penitent, who still does 
what he repents of." ' 

St. John Chrysostom calls a confession of that kind a the- 
atrical penance, pcenitentia flieatralis, such as would be repre- 
sented on the stage, in a comedy. This is a simile, my dear 

Shown by a ^^g^j^^gy^ which will serve admirably to explain the matter. 

simile. ' . . , , 

Sometimes a fight is represented on the stage, in which the com- 
batants rush at each other with drawn swords and with every 
appearance of rage and fury; at last one of them falls to the 
ground, stretches out his hands, and seems quite lifeless. A 
child, who does not understand what is going on, might begin 
to crv at seeing the man fall dead; but his father, who is sitting 
beside him, could easily reassure him, and explain to him that it 
was only a sham fight, and that the man would soon come to 
life again. Later on, the same man who pretended to be der.d 
comes on the stage again in a different character; see, the 
father says to his child, there is the man; do you not recognize 
him? When it is all over, the pretended dead man goes home 
and eats, and drinks, and amuses himself with his family just as 
before. It is nearly the same witli the apparent repentance 01 

> Irrlsor est, non poenitens, qui adhuc aglt quod pocnitet 

All tbese 
are only 
sham pent 

The Nature of the Purpose of Amendment, 339 

many who go to confession; they throw themselves down on 
their knees, praying, sighing, and striking their breasts, and say- 
ing to themselves, I am heartily sorry for having offended God, 
and I will never sin again; so much they say with their lips, 
and then they go to the priest and receive absolution. Those 
who cannot see the heart would say in such circumstances that, 
surely, now there is an end of sin; those people have given every 
sio-n of true sorrow; but the angels would think differently and 
would see that the consciences of those people are still burdened 
with sin as before. How are you to know that? Have a little 
patience, and in a short time you will see the apparent penitent 
returning to his former evil ways ; a sure sign that he has not 
had an earnest purpose of amendment; for, as Tertullian says, 
" where there is no amendment, there has been only a useless 


I do not mean to say, my dear brethren, that it is always an Because 
infallible sign of an inefficacious purpose for one to relapse intd ^^.^^^ithe"** 
the same sins, especially when they are venial sins (for this ser- sins they 
mon is not directed against them, and when they are declared in j^^^" 
confession it is enough if one intends at least to lessen their 
number), nor even when they are mortal sins; that is to say, ii 
the former sins are committed again, after some time or under 
the pressure of a great temptation or occasion. For our wills 
are, alas, inconstant and changeable, so that to-day we may be 
honestly determined to do the will of God, and to-morrow quite 
differently disposed. What I say holds good chiefly of those 
who spend months and years in the same vices, from one con- 
fession to another, without showing any sign of amendment, 
and without using the proper means to correct their bad habits. 
Of such people I say that they have not a firm purpose of 
amendment, in spite of their protestations to the contrary in 
confession, for their actions contradict their words. Hence 
there must be an earnest determination to avoid all sin. That 
is the first point. But the purpose must also be directed against 
all sin whatever, and for all time. This is the second point, 
and brieflv the 

Second Part. 
The Roman Emperor and other Christian potentates never There must 
make a long peace with the Turks, who are sworn enemies of ^""p^" 
the Christians, but only declare a truce for a time; and when pose to 

' Ubl emendatlo nulla, poenitentia vaiia. 

(•»■■•' .■"^^!wTT'i^S'«Sf^5'? 

■ >.<"«»■» 4->»'- 

avoid sin 
and forever. 

Tbey en in 
this point 
who are not 
Ti«olved to 
avoid sin in 
all circum- 

340 T/^e Nature of the Purpose of Amendme'nt, 

that time is expired they can go to war again, without any 
breach of faith. Sinners, God does not allow yon to act thus 
with Him; He accepts no armistice for a given time; if you 
wish to be reconciled to Him, you must declare a perpetual 
peace with Him, which is to last forever. By virtue of your 
good resolution, your will must be at the [)resent moment never 
to commit a single mortal sin, under any circumstances whatever, 
during your whole life, even if you were to live a hundred years, 
or could thereby gain all the riches and pleasures of earth, or 
would be otherwise reduced to the direst poverty, put to shame 
before the world, make all men your enemies, or have to suffer 
a disgraceful death. At the present moment, I say; for the 
purpose, no matter how strong it is, cannot keep you from 
sinning in the future, or prevent you from committing sin 
again (very many who have had the firm purpose of never 
offending God again have nevertlieless fallejii into grievous sin 
afterwards); but your will must be so disposed that you are 
firmly determined as long as your good purpose lasts, so that, 
while it does last, mortal sin is incompatible with it, and if it 
lasted for eternity, it would be impossible for you ever to com- 
mit a mortal sin. Again, God wishes to make a lasting peace 
with you; He will not 'be satisfied with half of your heart. 
That is, in virtue of this purpose you must be firmly resolved to 
avoid all the proximate occasions of sin, to overcome all bad 
desires and inclinations, and to fulfil all the obligations that arise 
out of sin. If you have not a firm resolution to that effect, 
your purpose is of no use in obtaining forgiveness of j^our sins, 
and vour confession is invalid. 

How shamefully many are wanting in those two requisites to 
a firm purpose of amendment! Some make up their minds to 
avoid sin, but not always, nor under all circumstances. I will 
not curse or swear, they say, provided things go right with me. 
I will live in Christian peace and harmony with all men, but I 
will not bear anything from that particular person. I will 
fdrgive my enemy from my heart, until I have a good oppor- 
tunity of revenging myself. I will lead a chaste life, if that 
person does not provoke me to sin. I will give up all indecent 
familiarities, as long as that individual keeps out of my way. I 
will avoid all dissipation during Lent; but when Easter comes I 
mjiy launch out a little again. 1 will avoid all company in 
which I know by experience that my heart or my eyes are 
sullied; but next Shrove-tide I must except from my resolution. 

The Nature of the Purpose of Amendment. 341 

because I shall be expected to join in the merry-making usual at 
the season according to the custom of the world. Ah poor 
gouls' your purposes are worth nothing; you do not make the 
proper peace with GodI What He requires from you is a last- 
i„o- peace, without condition or exception of time, circumstance, 
or^emptatiou; a peace you must be firmly resolved to keep, no 

matter what happens. ^ whovoiun- 

There are others who wish to avoid sin, but not completely; ^^^^^^^^^ 
and they are, firstly, those who, although they avoid sinful acts, their bad 
yet retain their evil desires and inclinations. They seem to me ^^^^^xL 
to act like a sick man, who abstains from certain articles of food 
and drink, solely because he is obliged to do so and must follow 
the doctor's prescription; and meanwhile his desires and his 
appetite tend towards the forbidden meats; he loves to talk of 
them, and his teeth water if he sees another enjoying them. 
Ah, lie thinks, I wish I, could eat them, too! So it is, too, with 
the' purpose of amendment that many sinners make, God has 
forbidden impure pleasures and revenge under pain of eternal 
damnation, and they know that; they think the fire of hell a 
severe punishment for such sins; the thought of it frightens 
them, and they abstain from sinful actions^ although the desire 
to commit them is just as strong as before. They rejoice secret- 
ly when thev think of the forbidden pleasures they have already 
enjoyed; they wish they had made more use of the opportunities 
formerlv offered them of indulging their passions; they look on 
those as happy who still gratify themselves in that way; they wish 
that it were not forbidden, but lawful, to indulge in such 
pleasures; and they are so disposed, that, if there were no hell, 
they would sin without scruple. Thus they have no fear of sin, 
or of offending God, but solely of the fire of hell; and therefore 
they abstain under compulsion from that which they would other- 
wise willingly do. This is a mere slavish fear, which, according 
to the opinion of theologians, does not exclude fully the will 
to commit sin, and therefore is not sufficient for the true conver- 
sion and repentance of the sinner. Nay, to be thus disposed and 
to say, for instance, if impurity were not forbidden under pam 
of hell I would commit it, is a new mortal sin; because it is a 
purpose of offending God if there were no hell, as well as a real 
complacency in and desire for the sinful action. But how in- 
juriously you, who are thus minded, act towards God ! You give 
Him your heart as you would give your money to a cut-throat 
who threatens your life; here, you say, take all my money, but 


i ir -j-ff r iii'i:te aii 

wi^i.jwiPijP"^^<t'_iPPi ^' "vy. 

342 77/^ Nature of the Purpose 0/ Amendment, . 

spare my life; wliile you think in your heart that, if he liad not 
a dagger pointed at your throat, you would be very fur from 
parting with your purse so easily. In the same way, I say, you 
act towards your God. Here, my God, you say to Him, by 
your actions at least, here Thou hast my will and the assnrjineeof 
my obedience; I must obey Thee and abandon sin; but if I had 
not hell to fear, if I could live forever, then I know what I 
should do. For shame, I say, to act thus meanly with your God I 
Away with your purpose; it is of no avail to the forgiveness 
of sin! 
Who do not Finally, tliey do not completely abandon sin who do not give 
avoid the ^j^^ nearest relations and comrades of sin; I mean, those 

proximate ... . . 

occasion, who retain ill-gotten gains without making restitution to the 

srivescan- jji^vfui owner; who continue in improper intimacy and in the 
dal, retain . . r r j 

hatred. proximate occasion of sin, and who do not remove out of tlie 
jinddonot -^vay that which has been a scandal and a fr^uent cause of sin 
tution. *^ themselves and others. There are some men who seem never 
to be satisfied with the sins they commit themselves in the 
present life, but leave, so to speak, an inheritance of sin to their 
descendants, ^neas Sylvius writes of tlie celebrated hero, John 
Zisca, that, as he was alwavs accustomed to live and to fiafht 
amongst soldiers, he wished to be with them after his death; 
and to this end he expressed a wiih, when he was dying, that his 
skin should be made into a drum after his death, that, as lie 
could not be there in person to encourage the soldieis, they 
might have at least as much as possible of him. Such is the 
wav, it seems to me, in which many sinners act. For instance, 
an unchaste man, who cannot any longer gratify his passions, 
dies; but he leaves behind him bad books, pictures, and statues 
enough to corrupt the living. A vindictive man dies; but he 
leaves behind him a legacy of hatred stamped in the memories 
of his children, by his oft repeated expressions of rancor 
against his enemv. An avaricious man dies; but he leaves his 
heirs a load of unjust and nsurious gains that is sufficient to 
damn them. Oh, my dear brethren, all these people make bad 
confessions; their sorrow fs useless, their purpose vain, the 
absolution thev receive invalid; nor has anv one who under- 
stands the matter tlie least donbt of that. The proximate 
occasion and danger of sin must be removed, and all obligations 
arising from sin must be fulfilled, or else one cannot say that he 
has abandoned sin completely. King Jelin, in order to fulfil the 
divine command, and to destroy utterly the house of Achab, wrote 

The Nat7ire of the Purpose of Amendment. 343 

to the chief men of Samaria, .^-herethe seventy sons of Achab 
Ire " if vou be mine and will obey me, take the heads of the 
rns of master, and come to me to Jezrahel by to-monw 
this tim'e " ' that I may be sure you have slain them all, as the 
Lord has" oomn.anded .no. Oh, how many confessors there are 
who if thov wished to do their duty properly, would have to 
„ke the same request of their penitents; when the latter say 
o tl e I will avoid sin in future; I will keep out of the occa- 
ion- I will restore n.y ill-gotten gains; I will forgive my;,^my, 
■ • How many there are, I repeat, to whom the confessor 
should sav: see, my child, that I may be certain that your pur- 
pose is 8ii,cere, as vou have so often relapsed into the same s,ns, 
brh,.- me the heads of your sins; do away with tl^ dangerous 
occasion; give back what does not belong to you; be reconciled 
to him with whom vou have been living in enmity; gi« up 
those abuses which have been the cause of sin to others; buru 
those immodest pictures; and when you have done that, come 
to n.e to-morrow," and then I will give you absolution, fori 
shall then be certain that your purpose is sincere. ■; 

And on the other hand, what a blessing it wonld be what a wj,e„^^... 
con-<olation for the coufessor, what a splendid proof of an ear- ^^^^_ ,^ ^^ , 
nest purpose of amendment, if the penitent could say with truth, s.^on. 
Father, I am seriously resolved to amend, and, m order to prove a^" 
my sinceritv, here are the heads of my sins; I have wronged my 
neighbor, but I have made complete restitution; or, I have the 
money here that belongs to him; can you not tell me how to 
restore it without exposing my good name? I have lived in im- 
proper intimacy for so long with a certain person; but that 
person is now gone away, or, 1 have left the house ,n which I 
used to sin. For some months past I have not spoken a word 
to one whom I disliked, but we are now reconciled, etc. Oh, i 
repeat, what a splendid proof of a sincere resolution to amend. 
But. alas, that proof is not always at hand! What a terribb 
day it will be wheu the "Written Book shall be produced; 
when that great account-book shall be opened, out of which the 
thoughts, words, and actions of all men shall be judged. IIow 
manv confessions and absolutions we shall then find rejected by 
the judge, although, in the opinion of men, they were valid! 
Then we shall see the truth of the words, " Many are called, 
but few chosen,'" even, perhaps, amongst sinners who belong to 

> SI met estls. et obedltis mlW. tolltte capita ffllorum domtnl vestri, et veDlte ad me hao 
eadom hora eras in Jezratiel.-IV. Kings x. f . 

> MulU sunt vocatl, paud veto electl.- Matt. xi. 16. 

- rtTiiihr r^ ^" I *- iiTiii ■ jjiiginajaiiiaMiluiiiUliB 

•-» ■oHW'-J^A't'. '^j;m»u 

of exhorta- 
tion to 
avoid all 

344 Removing the Proximate Occasion of Sin, 

the Catholic Church. But wliy? They generally go to confes- 
sion. Few of them die without confessing and receiving the 
last sacraments. True; but God alone knows what sort of con- 
fessions they make. They confess tlieir sins, but, as frequently 
happens, not properly, and that through want of true sorrow 
and a sincere purpose of amendment. 

'• Pour out thy heart like water before the face of the Lord/' ' 
is again my conclusion. sinner, if you wish to be truly con- 
verted to God, follow this advice; pour out your heart like 
water, not like oil, so that no grievous sin may remain in it. 
And I add, pcur out your heart like water, not as one empties a 
purse of money. And why not? If you let your purse fall, 
you stoop down to pick it up ; but if you pour out water on 
the ground, it is soaked up, and you cannot put it back, nor, 
in fact, do you care much about it. In the same way should 
you make your purpose of amendment; pour all your sins out of 
your heart like water, that is, without will, deMre, or hope to re- 
turn to them again for all eternity, and with such a firm deter- 
mination, that you may say, like St. Paul, '' For I am sure that 
neither death nor life . . . nor any other creature shall be able 
to, separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus 
Our Lord: "* this I am assured of by the grace of God. Amen. 





He who does not remove the proximate occasion of sin and 
avoid it altogether cannot be freed from the state of sin and 
from eternal vwm.— Preached on the fourth Simday after 



Domine, mlva nos; perimns. — Matt. viii. 25. 
*' Lord, save us ; we perish.'' 

* Effunde slcut aquam cor tnum ante conspectum Domini.— Lament, li. 19. 

* Certus sum enim quia neque mors, ncqtie vita . . . neque creatura alia poterlt nos 
separare a cbaritate Dei, quae est in Christo Jesu Domino nostro.— Rom. vill. 38 39. 

Removing the Proximate Occasion of Sin. 345 


That was a prayer that the disciples of Christ could offer with 
the greatest confidence of being heard and saved, although 
they were in imminent danger: " Lord, save us; we perish." 
Whv? Because they had followed their divine Master into the 
ship and had Him with them as their Protector. If they had 
noticed beforehand the stormy state of the sea, and had never- 
theless obstinately determined to trust themselves to it, without 
the protecting presence of the Lord, what would they have had 
to expect, if not shipwreck? In the same way, my dear breth- 
ren, they who, without absolute necessity, venture into all sorts 
of dangei'ous occasions and company, desire, hope for, and ex- 
pect in vain the help of God, and, as I showed in the last 
sermon, cannot long keep free from mortal sin, on account of 
their weakness and the want of a special grace of God. Fur- 
ther, if that holds good of those companions who are only a 
remote occasion of sin, and from whom one often comes away 
unhurt, and of these we have been speaking hitherto, what are 
we to think of those companions and people who are a proximate 
occasion of sin to us? Certainly, they must be at once avoided, 
and that for all time, or else there is no hope of being saved 
from mortal sin and from eternal ruin, as I shall prove to-day. 

Plan of Discourse. 

He who does not avoid those companionf^ 7vho are a proximate 
occasion of sin to him, and avoid them for all time, cannot be 
freed from the state of sin and from eternal ruin. Such is the 
whole subject of to-day's sermon. 

" Lord, save us; we perish.*' Help, Lord, by Thy power- 
ful grace, all those who are in the proximate occasion, that they 
may at once avoid it, so as to escape eternal destruction. '• Lord, 
save us; we perish.^' Help, Lord, all others, that we may 
carefully avoid every occasion that seems to be even in a remote 
deoree dancrerous, so that such occasions mav not be afterwards 
turned into proximate ones for us. This we ask of Thee 
through the intercession of Mary and of the holy guardian angels. 

That we may not be groning in the dark, we must first try to ^^ what the 

/. , , . . . 1 -^ i. • t ' Ti^ • j^i • proximate 

find out what is the proximate occasion of sm. It is nothing jj^gasion of 
else but a danger into which, if one runs, or remains, he, gen- sin consists, 
erally speaking, falls into sin, whether in thought or desire, or 
in words and conversation, or in deeds and actions. Here each 


346 Removing the Proximate Occasion of Sin, 

one must consider Lis own nature and weakness, liis desires and 
inclinations, and his past experience; for the same circumstance 
maybe the proximate occasion of sin to one, and not to another. 
Por instance, I know by experience that, whenever I go to a cer- 
tain house, I sin against holy purity; or else that, out of ten 
times, for example, that I have been there, I have sinned seven 
or eight times. That house, as long as the same people live in 
it, is the proximate occasion of sin to me. In tlic same way, 
3^ou are in the habit of consenting to an unclniste desire when 
you look at a certain person of the opposite sex, or at a picture 
that is not sufficiently decent; a deliberate look at that person 
or that picture is the proximate occasion and danger of sin for 
you. Another, when in company witli certain friends of his, is 
wont to indulge in im})ure discourse and to take a sinful pleas- 
ure in it; those companions are for him the proximate occasion 
of sin. Another is living in a house, or at an inn, where he 
constantly sees a person for whom he has an impure attachment, 
80 that he, generally speaking, whenever he sees that person, 
consents to unlawful desires and thoughts, or actually commits 
some sinful action; to remain in that house is for him the 
proximate occasion of sin. Another knows from experience 
that, when he takes too much to drink, although not to perfect 
ebriety, he is wont to commit sins of impurity, or to be quarrel- 
some; that drink is to him the proximate occasion of sin. A 
young person of the opposite sex knows by experience that, if 
she spends her time in the evenings standing at the door (Oh, 
would that the wretched practice were done away with, for it 
can certainly do no good I) she is' likely to meet with some com- 
panions of the neighborhood, who will lead her into sin; that 
habit is for her the proximate occasion of sin. And so on for 
other circumstances, 
n is a sin Xow, I repeat, he who is not firmlv resolved to shun such an 
it. occasion once for all, or, if he is actually in it, to give it up com- 

pletely, cannot be saved from eternal ruin, no matter how often 
he goes to confession or holy Communion; he is and remains in 
the state of sin. Why so? Because, even if his going into 
such an occasion, or his remaining in it, should not be the cause 
of sin to him now and then, yet it is in itself a sin which God 
has forbidden under pain of eternal damnation. For He who 
forbids the end forbids also the means that must of necessity 
lead to that end; and He who forbids me to commit sin forbids 
me also to have anything to do with that which, humanly speak- 

Removing the Proximate Occasion of Sin, 347 

\\\^, necessarily brings sin along with it, and that is the case 
with the proximate occasion. 

So we see God has done in all liis commandments. In the "^^^^ ^^'■■ 

- » 1 . T i if 1 biddeu by 

very beginning He forbade our forefather Adam to eat of the God even m 
fruit of the tree that was in the middle of paradise: "Of the paradise, 
tree of knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat. For in 
what day soever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death."' ' 
Did he, then, forbid the eating alone of the fruit? So it 
would appear if we consider the words of the commandment; 
but hear the answer that Eve gave to the serpent afterwards, 
when he asked her why she did not enjoy such beautiful fruit. 
" Of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of paradise, God 
hath commanded us that we should not eat; and that we should 
not touch it, lest perhaps we die." ' Mark those words, we must 
not even stretch forth our hands to touch the fruit; for its very 
touch, the sight of its pleasing colors, and its agreeable smell 
would so entice us, that we could not refrain from eating it; 
such was Eve's line of argument, and she concluded, therefore 
God has forbidden us not merely to eat of the fruit, but even to 
touch it. Eve, would that thou hadst followed thy own sound 
judgment, and kept away thy curious eyes and hands from the 
fruit; for then thou and Adam would not have eaten it, and 
plunged thyself and thy unhappy descendants into such misery! 

In the Old Testament God acted in the same way with the ^"^^^e old 
Israelites. He had forbidden them to adore false gods, and in fj„^La^. 
order to remove everv danj^erous occasion out of their wav. He 
commandcKl them at the same time to burn all their graven 
images: "Their graven thing? thou shalt burn with fire.'" 
They were not to keep i^ny of these things in their houses, nor 
even to desire the silver and gold of which they were made: ^^ Thou 
shalt not covet the silver and gold of which they are made, neither 
shalt thou take to thee anytliing thereof, lest thon offend. . . 
neither shalt thou bring anything of the idol into thy house, lest 
thou become an anathema, like it."* He had commnnded them 
not to eat leavened bread on Easter, and therefore thev were ob- 
Jiged to throw away all such bread out of their houses during those 

* De ligno antem scientitB boni et mall ne comedas. In quocumq le enlm die comederls 
ex eo, morte morteris.— Gen. ii. 17. 

' De fruetu lipnt qnod est in medio paradisi, praecepit nobis Deus, ne comederemus, et ne 
tan^eremus illiid. ne forte moriamur.— Ibd. iii. 3. 
- Sculptilia eoriim tffne eombiires..— Df»iit vil, 25. 

* Non concupisres argentnm et aurum, de qulbus facta sunt, neque assumas ex els tlbi 
quidquam. ne oCfendas; nee inferos qiiWquam ex fdolo in domum tuam, ne flas anathema, 
sicut et illud eirt— Ibid. 25, 26. 

348 Removijig the Proximate Occasion of Sin, 

days. The Nazarenes were not allowed to drink wine and had 
consequently to abstain from eating fresh or dried grapes, lest the 
taste of the fruit should entice them to taste the wine also. 
With still greater care, says St. John Chrysostom, did Our Lord, 
in the law of grace, endeavor to cut off the occasions that might 
lead us to transgress His commands. He tells us in the Gospel 
of St. Matthew that, " AVhosoever is angry with his brother, 
shall be in danger of the judgment. . . and whosoever shall 
say: Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire."* But why so 
severe, Lord? That no occasion may be given of doing any- 
thing against the principal commandment, ''Thou shalt not 
kill." For if it were lawful to veut one's anger against another, 
to abuse and vilify him, there would be the greatest danger of 
coming to blows and even murder in the end. The only confir- 
mation of your speech shall be, yes or no; never shall you 
swear unless compelled thereto by absolute necessity. Why? 
That we may have no occasion to violate that other chief com- 
mandment, **Thou shalt not bear false witness." 
Especially But with regard to the commandment forbidding adultery and 
ta.pu^ti^'' ^*^^®^ ^^'^^ ^^ impurity, to which our miserable nature is so in- 
clined, oh, how careful Christ was! He has closed our eyes, ears, 
mouths, hearts, and minds against this vice, and forbidden us, 
under pain of sin, to look at, listen to, speak or think of, volun- 
tarily, anything impure, to look at a person of the opposite sex 
with desire, or even to mention the vice: '' All uncleanness, let 
it not so much as be named among you,"' as St. Paul says. He 
has forbidden us, under pain of sin, to hang up anything on the 
walls of our rooms, or to allov^r anything to appear in our dress 
or outward behavior, which might be suggestive of impure ideas. 
He has commanded us, under pain of sin, to give up the friendship 
and society of those who are apt to lead us into this vice, no 
matter how dear they are to us, or how useful or necessary we 
find them; for such is the meaning of those well-known words 
in the Gospel: *' If thy eye scandalize thee, pluck it out and 
cast it from thee: " ' that is, if a person who is dear to vou as the 
apple of your eye is the occasion of sin to' you, away with him 
at once. *' And if thy hand or thy foot scandalize thee, cut it 
off and cast it from thee:"* that is, if you gain more by visiting 

> Omnis qnl irascltur fratri stio, reus erit judlcio; qui autem dlxerlt fatue, reus erit 
f^bennae Ijfnls — Matt. v. 22. 
' Omuis Immunditla nee nomlnetur In vobls — Ephes. v. .3. 
» SI oculus tuus scandallzat te, erue eum, et projlce abs te.— Matt, xvill. 9. 
* Si autem manus tua, vel pes tuus scandallzat te, absclde eum et projice abs te.— Ibid. 8. 

Removing the Proximate Occasion of Sin. 349 

ihat house than you could by the work of your hands, and if 
that house is the occasion of sin to you, you must avoid it 
altogether. If tlie society of that person is necessary to your 
comfo"t and well-being, so that you could do without it as little 
as without your foot, but it is an occasion of sin to you, you 
must leave that person once for all. 

Mark, my dear brethren, how exact the command is. Christ ^"fj^^^^^, 
does not say, ''if thy eye scandalize thee, close it, so as not maud on 
to see anytldng with it,"''but - pluck it out." He does not say, '''^^^^^^^ 
'' if thy hand or foot scandalize thee, tie it up," so that it cannot 
move; but, " cut it off." Hence it is not enough for the fulfil- 
ment of this law for one to say, I will go that house, or into 
tliat company, or to see that person; but I will guard my heart 
and my senses so as not to fall into sin. Xo; that is not the 
way to pluck out the eye, or to cut off the hand or foot. The 
occasion has to be completely avoided. Nay, Our Lord is not 
even satisfied with this; He says, moreover, that we must throw 
away the eye, hand, or foot, without any desire to take it back 
airain. AVhv so, dearest Saviour? If I pluck out my eye, can I 
not keep it by me, since there is no further danger of my seeing 
anything with it? If I cut off my hand or foot, can I not pre- 
serve it in my room, since it will not help me any more to feel 
or to walk? And therefore I will obey Thy command, and not 
keep the person who has been the occasion of sin to me in my 
house, but she can live in the neighborhood; I will break off all 
intimacy with her, but I will continue to salute her now and then; 
I will not speak with her alone, but I will write to her occasion- 
ally to show that I bear her no hatred. No; even that much is 
dangerous and would make matters just as bad as before; for 
it would at least be the occasion of unlawful thoughts and desires. 
Pluck out the eye, and cast it from thee. You must be as much 
separated from that person as if you did not know her at all, so 
that you will have neither the w^ish nor the power of renewing 
your intimacy with her. That Christ forbids this under pain of 
grievous sin is evident from the words that follow: *'It is 
better for thee having one eye to enter into life, than having two 
eves to be cast into hell fire." ' Hence he who keeps the eye, 
hand, or foot, that is, who does not remove the occasion of sin 
altoLiether, will be cast into hell, so that it is a grievous sin, 
deserving of eternal damnation, not to leave the occasion of sin, 
or to go into it voluntarily. 

» Bonum tibl est cum uno oculo In vitam Intrare, quam duos ocnlos habentem mlttl In 
gehennam Ignis.— Matt, xvlii. 9. 

So tbat he 
who does 
nut shun 
the proxi- 
mate occa- 
sion is not 
worthy of 

Although he 

other signs 
of repent- 
ance on his 

350 Removing the Proximate Occasion 0/ Sin. 

Such is the general teaching of theologians, who are agreed in 
saying tliat a man ninst sacrifice even a great pleasnre. or lienor, 
or wealth, rather than enter a honse, go into company, or asso- 
ciate with a person who places him in the i>roximate clanger of 
sin. Nay, there are many who maintain that, if necessaiy, one 
should sacrifice in snch circumstances all one's wealth, honor, 
and good name, and even life itself, because we mnst he alwins 
prepared to renounce everything, rather than offend God by 
grievous sin. There were, indeed, some who taught that one is 
not bound to shun the proximate occasion of sin if there is a 
good or reasonable cause for remaining in it; and, again, that it 
is lawful to seek an occasion of the kind, if one can gain some 
great advantage by it for himself or for his neighbor; further, 
that one is not obliged to turn out of his house the person with 
whom he has been in the habit of sinning, if the absence of that 
person would cause him too much grief or sickness, and it would 
be diflficult to find any one to replace her. But all these propo- 
sitions are condemned by the Popes Innocent XI. and Alexander 
VII. Hence he who remains in the proximate occasion of sin 
and is not disposed to remove or abandon it at once is not worthv 
of absolution, no matter what other promises or excuses he makes. 
One can hardly say of a dying Catholic that he is damned; 
but one of the surest arguments that lead one to such a conclu- 
sion is to see him die without having cut off the occasion of sin. 
There is a question amongst the learned as to whether King 
Solomon did penance for his sins and has saved his soul, or not. 
Manv asfree with some of the holv Fathers in thinking that he is 
saved; and they base their opinion on the words he wrote in his 
old age, *' Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity," and on several 
expressions of a similar nature, which could come only from a 
contrite heart. Others, on the contrary, maintain that he is 
damned, and their sole argument for saying so is the fact that 
he did not destroy the temples that he had built in honor of 
the idols of his concubines. St. Eucherius agrees with this: 
"it is evident," he says, ''that Solomon did not do penance 
fullv for the crime of idolatrv; for if he had brought forth fruit 
wortliy of penance, he certainly would have endeavored above all 
to destroy the idolatrous temples which he had built:" ' This 
conchision, says a learned author, seems to me irresistible. How- 
ever, there are some holy Fathers who dispute the aigument and 

* Palam ostendltnr quod Solomon de admlssae idololatriae scelere numquam perfecte poe- 
nltuit; nam si fructus poeniteniiae dignos faceret, satageret ante omnia, ut idola,quje aedifl- 
caverat, tollerentur.— SI. Eucherius in IV. Kings xxlii. 

Removing the Proximate Occasion of Sin, 351 

say that Solomon either really destroyed the temples, or that 
circumstances prevented him from destroying them all before 
his death. However that be, I will neither condemn nor can- 
onize him; I hope with all my heart that he is saved. But 
this much I say with that author, if you see a dying man kissing 
the crucifix, uttering pious words, and leaving something con- 
siderable to the poor and sick in his v.'ill, you can probably 
conclude that he has died a happy death; but if, when he could 
do so, he has not destroyed what he had built up for the devil 
and the flesh, if you still see in his house or in his room the 
person whom he kept to gratify his passions, you can with still 
greater probability conclude that the unfortunate man is damned. 
For he has not removed the proximate occasion of sin, and 
therefore he has not, as he could and should have done, freed 
himself from the state of sin. 

From this it follows, in the first place, that he whose occupa- Hence one 
tion or business is a proximate occasion of sin to him, which he, ferpoverij 
after having used the means suggested to him for that purpose oranydis- 
bv his confessor, cannot convert into a remote occasion, is ^!?^"^'' 

J ^ ' rather than 

bound in conscience without the least delay to leave that occupa- remain in 

tion or business, even if he should thereby be reduced to poverty, ^^e occasion 

, of sin. 

According to this a servant is bound to leave his employment 

before his time is expired, even at the risk of losing his salary, 
if he has kept up an impure intimacy in the house, which he 
cannot otherwise abandon. A maidservant is bound to leave 
her situation before the expiration of her time of service, and to 
seek a living elsewhere, if she is solicited to unlawful actions by 
her master, or his son, or his servant, or by strangers who come 
to the house, and is in the habit of consenting to their wishes. 
Even the son or daughter of the family, though reduced to 
beggary by so doing, is bound to leave the house, if by remain- 
ing they are in the proximate occasion of sin, which they cannot 
avoid; but that is rarely the case, since it is easy for them to 
avoid sin with the help of their parents. 

Secondly, it follows that the excuses that are often alleged wisa^aiu 

excuse to 

are worthless. People Fay, I cannot yet leave that house, that say that one 
person, that company; I will go on as usual, but, with the help does not in- 
of God, I will avoid sin. No matter whether you commit sin or Ji^,"heoc-° 
not, you are still guilty in the sight of God, inasmuch as He has casion. 
forbidden, not only the sinful act, but also the occasion of it. ' 
And what is the good of saying, I will go into the occasion, but 
by the help of divine grace will not commit sin any more? 


It Is vain 
to rely on 
the confes- 
sion one 
makes and 
the ab- 
solution re- 

352 Rcmovuig the Proximate Occasion of Sin. 

You might as well say, I will go out at night and leave my door 
open, trusting to Providence that no thieves will enter my house; 
I will put my head into the jaws of a raging lion, trusting that 
God will prevent him from hurting me; I will not give up 
drinking, but I hope that God will not allow me to get drunk; 
I will run into the midst of bullets aiul swords, but, with the 
help of God, will not get wounded; I will stand in the middle 
of a fire, bnt I hope that God will prevent me from being bnrnt. 
What foolish talk that is! How many youths were there who 
came uninjured out of the furnaces of Babylon? The holy 
Scripture mentions only three; but now it seems that I mu^st 
believe that vou will be the fourth; for, as St. John Chrysostom 
say?, it is as great a miracle for one not to fall into sin, especially 
in the matter of impurity, when he goes into the occasion of it, 
as for the three Hebrew youths to have come out of the fire un- 
harmed. 1^0 you think that God will work a miracle to please 
you, if you wantonly rush into the danger? I take to witness 
your own experience. How often have you not made the snme 
promise, and sworn almost in the confessional that you would be 
careful, with the grace of God, not to fall into sin? And up to 
the present that promise has remained unfulfilled. For does not 
your own conscience tell you that, whenever you went to that 
pei-son, that company, or that house, you came away with an- 
other sin on your soul? In vain, therefore, do you renew those 
promises; you commit a sin by the very presumption of which 
you are guilty in remaining in, or seeking wilfully, such a danger. 
It follows, thirdly, how little reason one has to depend on one's 
ordinai-v confessions and the absolutions he receives, as long as 
he continues in the occasion of sin. There are many who say, 
it is true that I commit sin generally when I go to that house, 
or into that company, or see that person, but I go to confession 
immediately after, and receive absolution; the priest says nothing 
to me about the matter, and I must give him credit for knowing 
his business, etc. So much the worse. A fine confession, that, 
says St. Ambrose, and a wonderful a])sol\ition! Those people 
are like one who trie^ to wash himself with an unburnt brick; 
the more he wets it, and rubs himself with it, the dirtier he 
becomes.' What better are you for going often to confession, if 
yon continue in the proximate occasion of sin? Instead of 
cleansino' vour soul, vou only add a new burden to it, in the 
shape of a sacrilegious confession and Communion; for without 

^ Quo ma^is lavabat, eo mairis luto llniebatur. 

Removing the Proximate Occasion of S 171. 353 

ftn earnest purpose to avoid the occasion of sin you can have 
neither true sorrow nor resolution of amendment. But, you say, 
1 receive absolution each time. No, I answer, you do not; you 
liear the words of the form that the priest speaks, but that is all. 
For you do not act honestly with God and your soul; you run 
from one confessor to another, who does not know the state of 
your conscience, or you seek one who will not question you 
much, and to him 30U tell the sins you have committed since 
your last confession, but nothing more; you say nothing of the 
fact tliat you are in the habit of committing those sins for a 
loii<^ time because you are in the proximate occasiou of them, 
and that you are bound to tell. Thus, in an underhand manner, 
you steal an absolution from a confessor who has no suspicion of 
how matters really stand with you; but it is an absolution that 
will do you nO good, for it will be written down against you in 
the great account-book, and will only increase your torments in 
hell; and one da^? you will find out that your conversion was 
only a sham and came from a heart that was filled with false- 
hood. Such is the complaint that God makes of the daughter 
of Juda by the Prophet Jeremias: ''And after all this her 
treacherous sister Juda hath not returned to me with her whole 
heart, but with falsehood, saith the Lord."* 

. Otherwise, according to the teaching of theologians, if the ^^^^y^J^^n^ 
confessor knows that you are in the proximate occasion of sin, is invalid, 
he cannot give you absolution, unless you are firmly resolved to 
avoid that occasion forever. Nay, if you have often promised 
him to avoid it, and have not fulfilled your promise, he dare not 
in the end absolve you from your sins, unless you have really left 
the house or the person who is the cause of sin to you; nor 
must he trust any farther to yom mere promise, even if you con- 
firm it with an oath. If, in spite of that, he gives you absolution, 
then either he does not know his duty, or else he commits a sin 
with you, by trying, as St. Cyprian siiys, to make a peace 
between you and God, '' which is a vain and false peace, injur- 
ious to him who gives it, and in no way profitable to him who 
receives it.'''* It is a favor which condemns the judge, and does 
not acquit the accused. You must know that, although you 
may have received absolution a hundred times in that way, if 
you wish afterwards to do sincere penance and be really con- 

» In omnibus his non est reversa ad me prevarlcatrix sorer ejus Juda in toto corde suo; 
sed In raeudacio, ait Dominus.— Jerem. iii. 10. 

- Irrlt-a et falsa pax, periculosa daritibus, nihil accipientibus profutura. —St. Cyprian, 
tract, de lapsis. 

^-i»'..fc#^ -^-j- -»^ 

■ -SI^^S^K.-?^^ 

354 Removing the Pi'-oximatc Occasion of Sin. 

verted to God, you must tell in confession all the mortal sins 
you committed during the Avhole time you were in ilie occasion 
of sin, as well as the number of times you inado sacrilegious 
confessions aud Communions, and all those cojife.-sions you must, 
repeat with true sorrow, because the absolutions you leceived 
were null and void, as you had not true sorrow and purpose of 
Andconfes- Jt js with vour confessions as with kins: Saul when he had 

slon Is use- , 1* 4 1 1 • XI 

less, too. overthrown the Amalekites, as I have mentioned alrejidv. God 
Shown by a had commanded him to destrov the Amalekites, and not to 
spare even a beast belonging to them; but he saved from de- 
struction the king and the best of the flocks. Meanwhile the 
prophet Samuel arrived on the scene, and Saul Avent to meet 
him, boasting of what he had done, as if he Inid fulfilled to the 
letter the command of the Lord: *• Blessed be tliou of the Lord, 
I have fulfilled the word of the Lord."' What? snid Samuel, 
you have fulfilled the word of the Lord? '' What meaneth, then, 
this bleating of the flocks, which soundeth in my ears, and the 
lowing of the herds, which I hear?'*' Is that the way you ful- 
fil the command of God? Such is sometimes the way with you, 
too, sinner, when you come out of the confessional. Thank 
God, you say to your friend, or think to yourself, I have got rid 
of that much, at all events; I have confessed my sins, and am 
reconciled to God; *' I have fulfilled the word of the Lord." 
But your friend might ask you, if he entered your house, what 
is this that soundeth in my ears? If you are freed from vour 
sins, how is it I still hear in the house the voice of the person 
who has been the cause of sin to you? Why do I still see those 
indecent pictures on your walls, and those impure love-tales on 
your table, which have been to you the occasion of unchaste 
thoughts and desires? Has not God commanded you to put 
away all those things? Is that the wav in which vou fulfil His 
command? Ah, yon deceive yourself I Sin is still in j'our heart; 
you are not at all reconciled to God; the unclean spirit is still 
in peaceable possession of your soul. No;^the proximate occa- 
sion must be removed, or all your confessions will be of no help 
to you. 
The best But if VOU wish to be able to say with truth that you are 

sijfnof true reconciled to God, and are freed from the state of sin. then hear 

sorrow is to ^v^inx 

remove the what happened to the Apostle St. Peter. He was lying in 

' Benedictus tu Domiuo, Implevl verbum Domini.— I. Kinjrs xv. 13, 
' Ec qu8B est liaec vox fn*egum, quae resonat in auribua meia, et armentorum, quam 
ego audio?— Ibid. 14. 

Removing the Proximate Occasion of Sin, 355 

prison, bound with chains, as we read in the Acts of the Apos- "^^'^^^^^ 
ties: ''And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a ^y another 
li^ht shined in the room ;^ and he, striking Peter on the side, simile, 
raised him up, saying: Arise quickly . . . gird thyself, and put 
on thy sandals. . . Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me." ' 
Peter went with him, and they passed the first and second ward 
till they came to the iron gate, which opened of itself to them; 
but still Peter did not know what was happening to him: ''He 
knew not that it was true which was done.;" ' he thought it was 
jdladream; "he thought he saw a vision."' But when they 
had gone some distance through the streets, and Peter found 
himself really outside the gates, he began to realize what had 
occurred; oh, he said, with joy and wonder, "Now I know in 
very deed that the Lord hath sent His angel, and hath delivered 
me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of 
the people of the Jews."* A striking picture this, my dear 
brethren, of the sinner who, living in the habit of sin for a long 
time, bound with ropes and fetters to some creature, and lying 
in a gloomy prison, at last becomes really converted to God. 
The light of divine grace shines on him, by which he is enabled to 
see the bondage in which he is held under the yoke of the devil. 
"Arise quickly," says the angel of the Lord to him, when he 
hears a sermon, or reads a spiritual book, or hears of some sud- 
den death; cast off the fetters of impure passion; save yourself 
from the slavery of sm. He hears the voice and is at the 
same time tormented by his conscience; the iron gate, which was 
closed so long, opens at last; that is, he opens his mouth to 
declare his sins in confession. This is an excellent beginning he 
makes; but it cannot be trusted much yet. Like Peter, he may 
still have good reason for doubtiiig if he is really freed from pris- 
on, or if it is only a dream, an imaginary penance that he has 
done: " he thought he saw a vision." But if he gets so far as to 
see the gate shut behind him, that is, if he has removed the proxi- 
mate occasion of sin; if he has determined not to go near that 
house, that person, that company any more, and really keeps 
away from them altogether, for a month or two, so that he can 
say with truth that he is done with them, then, indeed, he can 

> Et ecce, angelus Domini astitit, et lumen refulsit in habitaculo, percussoque latere Petri, 
excitavit enm dicens: Surge veloeiter , . . . Pi-opcingere, et calcea te callgas tuas. . . .Circumda 
tlbi vestlmetitum tuum et sequere me.— Acts xii. 7, 8. 

2 Nesciebat quia verum est quod flebat. - Ibid. 9. ^ cxlstimabat se visum videre.-Ibid. 

* Nunc soio vere quia misit Dominus anerelum suum, et eripuit me de manu Herodis, et 
de omnl expectatione plebia Judaeorum.— Ibid. 11. 


occasloD at 

356 Removing the Proximate Occasion of Sin, 

rejoice with Peter, and say: '^Xow I know in very deed tli.-u 
the Lord halh sent His an,<re], and hath delivered nie out of tlic 
hand of the hellish Herod." Blessed be Gotl, I ani at last freed 
from the state of sin! I can now be certain tiiat my rei-cntanco 
was geiuiine; I am really reconciled to God; I am on tlie right 
-way again; my only cai-e now need be to keep on it and advance 
towards heaven. Oh, what an unusual con.solation for such a 
man! A consolation which he has hitherto known nothing of, 
whde in the state of slavery. JIov/ grateful the repose of con- 
science he enjoys! A repose of which he had no experience while 
his conscience was tormenting him, even in the midst of his 
forbidden pleasures. 

SL'JL'Z', ^ c«»c^"f^e, my dear brethren, with the words of Samuel to thc^ 
andpurpos^ Israelites, '*If you turn to the Lord with all vonr heart, put awav 

Ltionut *^'^ '^'"''"^'' ^^"^^ ^^"^"^ ^^"^^"S 3-0"-"' 1^0 y^ii ^vish, sinners, 
to free yourselves from the state of sin, to be reconciled to God, 
and to enjoy the peace and repose of a good conscience? Then 
you must *^put away the strange gods from among you." Is there 
one among you who is in the habit of sin, especially of impurity, 
and who always comes to confession with the same story ? Let 
him examine himself to see what is the cause of it, and he will 
perhaps find that it is some person for whom he has an impure 
attachment, or some house, or company in which he is accus- 
tomed to sin. Thus he will discover the stone against which he 
so often stumbles, the idol which he adores instead of the true 
God. Away, then, with that person; shun that house, that com- 
pany; the occasion must be removed at once; there is no other 
means for you to regain the grace of God and to escape eternal 
damnation. Put away the strange gods from amongst you with- 
out delay, do not remain a moment longer in the occa&ion, for 
the longer you delay the more difficult will your conversion' be- 
come. On this depends the fate of your soul and its etemal 
happiness or misery. :N'othing in the world should be too diffi- 
cult for one to undertake with readiness, in order to avoid an 
eternal hell, and to gain an eternal heaven. Put away the 
strange gods, then; remove the occasion at once, no matter what 
it costs you. But that intimacy has now lasted for such a long 
time, and it is a source of such pleasure. IS'o matter; that is 
only another reason for breaking it off all the sooner. Away 
with it! It is better for you to go to heaven without your dear 

» Si in toto corde vestro revcrtlmlni ad Dominura, auferte deos alienos de medio vestrl - 
I. KInjfs vi{. a. 

Removing the Proximate Occasion of Sin. 357 

friend, than to go to hell with him or her. But that person is 
very useful to me in my house-keeping, and is a source of great 
profit? No matter; if it were to reduce you to beggary, the pei-- 
son must go; it is better for you to go to heaven without sensu- 
al pleasures, than to go to hell to be tortured forever after 
the short-lived joys of this earth. I acknowledge, Lord, the 
truth of all this, and therefore I willingly give up the occasion 
of sin, with the determination never to venture into it again! 
Thou wilt help me by Thy grace to overcome the difficulty I 
may at first experience in doing this. But no matter what 
happens, if it were a thousand times more difficult, it must, be 
done at once. I cannot and will not burn in hell forever; I 
must go to Thee in heaven. Therefoi-e farewell to all you who 
have hitherto been an occasion of sin to me; I know you ,no 
longer! My God alone will I serve, and Him will I love above 
all things with my whole heart. Amen. 

Another IiUrodudion to.the same sermnii.for the Feast of St. 

Bartholomew, Ajjostle. 

Qui vpxahantur a immundis, cu^bantur. — Luke 


"And they that were troubled with unclean spirits were cured." 
how good it would be, and how necessary for Our Lord, still 
to remain on earth, and to heal diseases! For what a number of 
people there are who suffei-, not merely in their mortal bodies, 
but who are in a most desperate state as regards their souls; 
especially they who are plagued by the unclean spirit, that is by 
the demon of impurity. But after all, have we not Christ 
amongst us, and can we not go to Him every day, in order to be 
healed? Are not the confessionals, in which we can lay down 
the bui-den of our sins, ahvays open? Does not Christ give to 
all who approach Him His own virginal Flesh and Blood in the 
holy Communion, in order to cleanse us from the filth of our 
sins? Truly, my dear brethren, if we only would approach Our 
Lord with contrite hearts and a firm pui'pose of amendment, our 
sickness would soon be healed. But, alas! How many there are, 
possessed by the unclean spirit, whom neither the sacrament of 
penance nor the holy Communion can help to recover their 
health; for they continue in the proximate occasion of commit- 
ting sins against holy purity. Such people as these have no 
means of salvation left, unless, like the holy Apostle, St. Bar- 

358 Sinnei^s in the Proximate Occasio?i of Sin, 

tholomew, tliey allow themselves to be flayed alive; that is, un- 
less they reuoiiiice the occasion to which, generally speakina-, 
they are more attached than the skin is to their bodv, as I 
shall now prove. 

Plan of Discourse. 

He who is possessed by the nncJean spirit of impair ity mnst re- 
move the proximate occasion of sin (ind shun it altogether; or else 
he cannot I)e helped out of the state of sin. Such is the whole sub- 
ject of to-daifs sermon. What I now say of the vice of impurity 
in particular can and must be understood, due proportion being 
observed, of the proximate occasion of all other sins. 

And that all here present may profit by it, let ns make an 
earnest resolution to avoid even the least djniger of sin, as far as 
possible. Give ns Thy grace to this end, Almiditv God, 
through the intercession of Thy Immaculate Mother and of the 
holy and most pure angels. 




Many do not wish to remove or avoid the proximate occasion 
of sin, because they persuade themsolves, either that it is not a 
proximate occasion for them, or that in future it will not be so 
dangerous for i\\Qm.— Preached on the fifth Sunday after Epi- 


Inimicus homo hoc fecit.— W-dXt. xiii. 28. 
"An enemy hath done this.'*' 

^* Man is a wolf to his fellow-man,'' ' says the old proverb. 
"A man's enemies shall be they of his own household,"' says 
Jesus Christ, the eternal Truth. This is especially the case in 

Homo homini lupus. 

* InlmicI homlnls domestici ejus. -Matt. x. 36. 

Sinners in the Proximate Occasion of Sin. 359 

what concerns the salvation of our souls, wherein we often find 
those who are most dear to us to be our worst and most danger- 
ous enemies, and who, the more we love them, are the more to be 
dreadeJ by us. I now allude specially to the society of those who 
are the proximate occasion of sin to us, principally in the matter 
of impurity. Oh, what a multitude of sins are caused by such an 
occasion. ' He who is once entangled in it has his soul sowed 
like a field with all sorts of weeds of carnal thoughts, desires, 
words, and works. If he asks, who has done that? his own 
conscience will answer him, ''an enemy hath done this," it is the 
work of that person, that house, that company, that proximate 
occasion. Therefore he who wishes to keep his soul free from 
those weeds must at once remove and avoid forever the proxi- 
mate occasion; otherwise there is no chance of saving him from 
eternal ruin, as 1 have shown in my last sermon. But, 
l)lindness and stupidity of man! He who is once entangled in an 
occasion of the kind loves nothing more than the enemies of his 
soul; he tries to deceive himself in all sorts of wjjys; he has all 
sorts of false arguments to prove that the bad company he keeps, 
although it is in reality an occasion of sin to him, is not likely to 
do him harm. I cannot avoid that company, he says, or else, I 
am not bound in conscience to avoid it. So that, no matter how 
you exhort him, you can never persuade him to make up his 
mind to give it up. We shall now consider the excuses which 
some people bring forward in this matter. 

Plan of Discourse. 

Many ihinh they are not bound to remove or to avoid the 
proximate occasion of sin. beranse they jjersuade themselves, cither 
that it is not a proximate occasion for them, or that in future 
it will not be so dangerous for them. A vain and idle excuse. 
Such is the ivhole subject of this sermon. 

That those whom it concerns may understand it, and that we 
may all be on our guard against the enemy of our souls, that is, 
the occasion of sin, we beg of Thy grace, Lord, through the 
intercession of Mary and of the holy guardian angels. 

To come to the subject at once. Of the first class of tliose 
who try to persuade themselves that this or that occasion is not 
a proximate one of sin to them, or that it will not be so danger- 
ous for them in future, there are some who say by way of excuse: 
I keep that person in my house, not for the purpose of committing 
sin and offending God, but because that person is useful or 

First ex- 
cuse : I do 
uct ffo Into 
the occasion 
for the pur- 
pose of sin- 


It is a self- 

For he of- 
fends God, 
after all. 

360 Sinnc7's in the Proxwiate Occasioih-of Sin. 

necessary to mo in the management of my domestic affairs. I 
go to that house, or into that company, not to commit sin, 
but to visit my friends, accoi'ding to the requirements of courtesy, 
or to pass away tlie time in hiwful amusements. In h)oking at 
or speak ins: to that person, who is pleasing to me, I seek nothing 
but a pleasure and delight such as one experiences in eating and 
drinking, in looking at a play, or in listening to good music. 
That is all I want. I do not seek carnal or forbidden pleasure, 
and if I feel it, it is against my will and intention, and I protest 
that I never will voluntarily seek such pleasure, for I do not 
wish to offend God by a mortal sin, etc. 

But what a wretched excuse that is I I thought that the 
deceit that Satan practised in paradise, and that has since 
produced such lamentable fruit in the woild. was detested by 
all, but now I am forced to believe the words of the philosopher 
Seneca: *' In what do we rejoice more than in deceit? '' ' And, 
in fact, we even try to deceive ourselves, especially in thing.^ 
that concern our spiritual welfare; and the more crafty and 
cunning our deceit, the more we love it. But this is that 
deplorable blindness, that most terrible punishment, which God 
inflicts on our sins in this life. Nor do I ask you to believe this 
on my authority, but on that of the Apostle, St. Paul, who, 
writlnir to the Tliessalonians. savs : ** Because thev received not 
the love of the truth that they might be saved, therefore God 
shall send them the operation of error to believe lying."' 

AVhat, in the name of wonder, is the meaning of your excuse, 
I will keep in my house or I will go to visit the person who 
pleases me, but not with the intention of committing sin and 
offending God? AVhere is the sinner in the world so wicked, 
what robber or murderer is so abandoned, as to sin only for the 
purpose of offending God ? Ask them about it, one after the 
other, for instance, why did you steal ? To get the money, the 
thief will answer, that T want for my support. Why did yon 
kill that man? To have revenge on him. Why did you commit 
adulterv? To satisfy my passion. Xojie of them will acknowl- 
edge that his object was to offend God. To sin merely for the 
purpose of sinning, and through hatred of God, belongs rather 
to the demons in hell than to men who are still living on earth, 
and if one of the latter were found to be guilty of such malice, 

J Quo nisi mendaoio RaiKiemus ? ^ 

a Eo quod charltatem veritatis non recepenmt, ut salvl flerent . Ideo mittet lUIs Deus 
operatlonem erroris, ut credant meudacio.— n. Tbess. 11. 10. 

Sinners in the Proximate Occasion of Sin, 361 

he should be looked on as an incarnate demon rather than as a 
reasoning human being. I have not the least difficulty, then, in 
believing that you, who are in the proximate occasion, do not 
keep in your house or visit that person for the purpose of 
offending' God. You even wish that what you do were not 
forbidden by Ood, and therefore you seek after all sorts of 
subterfuges to excuse yourself from sin in what you do. Mean- 
while, however, in your looks, desires, thoughts, words, and 
crcstures, without saying anything of other actions, you do 
what God has forbidden under pain of eternal damnation, and 
what can not be done without sin, as, I suppose, your own experi- 
ence has taught you before this, if you wish to be candid with 
yourself, and therefore it is in vain that you try to excuse 
yourself by appealing to your intention. 

It would be a ridiculous thing for a man to sit down in a house 
which is on lire, and to say, I am sitting here, not that I may be 
burnt, but because I want to finish my business. This intention 
of his will not save him from the flames. You maintain, with a 
certain amount of hair-splitting casuistry, that you do not seek 
in the society of that person a carnal and forbidden pleasure, 
and that your only intention is to gratify your inclination and 
your outward senses. But supposing I were to set fire to your 
house, and that to your just complaints my only answer would 
he : Oh, I did not mean to do you any harm, nothing was 
farther from my intention ; my only wish was to see the fire and 
to warm myself at it, what would you think of that ? Yet it 
is worth as -much as your lame excuse. You say you do not 
seek for carnal pleasure; but you voluntarily place a cause which 
is, of itself, apt to awaken carnal pleasure, and must, of neces- 
sity, give rise to it; now, he who wills the cause wills also the 
effect*' that comes from it. Therefore that occasion is a 
proximate one for yon, and you are not allowed either to go into 
it, or to remain in it, and no matter what it costs you, it must 

be removed. 

I acknowledge, another, apparently more reasonable than the 
first, says, that that house, person, or company has hitherto been 
a proximate occasion of sin for me; but I have never had such a 
clear knowledge of the malice of sin as I now have, and I have 
just confessed "my sins with such a lively sorrow, and such a firm 
resolution, that I feel I would bear all the evils in the world, and 
die a thousand times rather than commit another mortal sin; 
nor, in fact, have I any desire or inclination now for carnal pleas- 

A ridiculous 
Shown by 

Second ex- 
cuse: I 
have re- 
solved after 
not to sin 
In the oc- 
casion any 

. _uu«it^dB*ia 


62 Sinners in the Proximate Occasion of Sin, 

This resolu- 
tion will not 
b«> kept 

Shown by a 

But be wiU 
fall again. 

iires, but rather horror and dread at the thought of offending 
God and exposing myself to tlie danger of eteriial damnation. 
Therefore I am fully persuaded that I run no danger now by 
keeping that person in m}'^ house, or by going into that company, 
in order to satisfy the requirements of friendship, as the law of 
Christian charity commands. What a sudden change has come 
over you ! It may be as you say, and if it is, you ought to 
rejoice and to thank God from the bottom of your heart. But 
let me i::ive you one piece of advice ; do not trust too much to 
the future, nor venture again into the occasion of sin, or you 
will certainly find that your present firm purpose and your horror 
of sin will soon come to nauij:ht. 

The Prophet Isaias says of sinners that they multiply their 
offences as spiders make their webs: ** They have woven the 
webs of spiders." * When a man sees a spider's web on the wall 
or the W'indow of his room he calls at once to his servant and 
says to him: See what is hanging there; is that all tne care you 
take of my room? Get your broom and sweep it aw^ay at once. 
The servant obeys, and in a few moments the room is quite 
clean. But in a few days' time the man sees the cobwebs thei'o 
again. What is the meaning of this, he asks his servant, did I 
not tell you to be more careful? What is the use of my paying 
you your wages if you do not do what I tell 3^ou ? Sir, answers 
the servant, I swept away the cobwebs when you told me. to do 
so; there must be some fresh ones there since. But, says the 
master, it is not enough to sweep away the cobwebs, you must 
kill the spiders, or else they will begin a fresh web every day. 
"Decline from evil,"' says the Lord to the sinner; amend 
vour sinful life; awav with the webs of vice. And what does 
the sinner do? Driven by the anguish of his conscience, or 
touched bv somethins: he has heard in a sermon, or moved by 
the fear of death in a dangerous illness, he makes a general 
confession and repents of his sins with a firm resolution to 
avoid them in future. Thus he sweeps away the cobwebs from 
his soul. But what follows ? In a short time the webs are 
there again; he falls into grievous sin. How does that happen? 
The spider is not yet killed; the proximate occasion of sin is 
not removed, and, as sure as he goes into it again, he falls, no 
matter how firm his purpose of amendment was. 

Have you done penance? asks St. John Ohrysostom; have 
you repented of your sins and blotted them out? If so, I con- 

» Telas araneae texuerunt.— Isa. Ux. 5. 2 Declina a malo.— Ps. xxxvi. 27, 

Sinners in the Proximate Occasion of Sin. -^^^ 

gratulate you with all my heart; " but are you therefore changed Another 
into a stone or into iron? " ' No; you are and ronifdn straw% as ''"" 
you were before; '' can you, then, touch fire and not be burnt? 
Therefore I implore of you to remain away from the fire, no 
matter how firm your resolution is. You are now, says St. Peter 
Chrvsologus, like a fire that is extinguished, but is still smoking, 
for the heat is not gone out of it altogether; all it requires to 
make it shoot up again into flame is to put a little fire into 
it or to blow on it. Try it with a candle; blow the candle 
out, and immediately hold it to another lighted one, and, even 
before the wick touches the flame, it will take tire. So it is also 
with the proximate occasion of sin, especially in the matter of 
impurity. No knowledge on the part of the understanding, no 
purpose or resolution on the part of the will, is of any use; you 
have detested your sins from the bottom of your heart, and are 
firmly determined rather to die a thousand times than to com- 
mit them again ; the candle is blown out; the fire of concupiscence 
is somewhat subdued; but if you go into the occasion again, 
into the society of the person with whom you have so often 
sinned, the pleasure you formerly enjoyed must of necessity 
recur to your mind, the former impure love you felt will be 
awakened in vou anew, and the fire of impuritv will burst forth 
into a flame. In the Holy Scripture we find almost the same 
simile employed to confirm this truth. When the Jews were 
brought into captivity into Persia, the priests secretly took 
awav the fire that used to burn on the altar and hid it in a well 
that was dried up. After many years their descendants came 
back and looked into the w^ell for the fire, but, says the Scrip- 
ture, "they found no fire, but thick water."' The priest 
Nehemias bade them draw it up, and sprinkle it on the wood 
that had been placed on the altar, ready for the sacrifice; and 
behold, hardly was it done, when " there w'as a great fire 
kindled, so that all wondered." * Mark this, my dear brethren, 
when the fire was placed in the well, which usually contained 
water, it became water: "they found no fire, but thick water; 
and when they drew up the water, and used it foi- the sacrifice, 
as fire is wont to be used, it became fire again; "there was a 
great fire kindled, so that all wondered." Now I repeat, 
sinner, that after that clear knowledge of the wickedness of sin, 

' Nuraqiiid lapideus es, aut ferrens?— S. Chrysos., bom. 1. In ps. 1. 
' Iffni conJnn<?eris, et non ardeWs ? 

* Non invenenrat Ipnem, sed aquam crassam.— II. Mach, 1, 20. 
^ Accensus est ijrnls magnus, ita ut orancs ralrarentur.— Ibid. 22. 

a^w i i^ify^ffljyfijl l iai ^ 

For even 
the place in 
wbicb one 
has sinned is 

It is a snare 
of the deviJ 
that one 
does not 
feel tempta- 
tion in the 

364 Si^iners in the Proximate Occasion of Sin. 

of wliich yon speak, the licurtfelt sorrow you feel for having 
offended God, and the firm purpose rather to die a thousand 
times than commit sin, the fii-e of your former carnal desires 
does not burn so fiercely, and your soul is turned, as it were, into 
water by your tears of penance; but if you go again into that 
house or company in which the fire of sensuality formerly over- 
came you, the water will soon be changed into a fire which will 
consume your soul worse than before. 

Thei-efore St. Paul warns us, saying, *'give not place to the 
de\il;"' for even the place, says St. Isidor, in which one has 
sinned becomes dangerous, since the mind recalls what occurred 
there, and thus awakens desires anew; much more, then, will 
the actual, living presence of the person with whom one has 
sinned have that effect. '* Where art Thou?"' said the Lord 
to Adam after he had sinned. Did not God know that Adam 
had hidden himself in the garden, full of shame and confusion 
at the ti-ansgi-ession of wliich he now realized the full enormity? 
Certainly, He knew it well; and, as St. John Chrysostom says, 
He did not ask in order to find out where Adam was, but to 
remind him that he was still in the place in which he had 
sinned, after having repented of his guilt. Adam, where art 
Thou? In the garden. Away with you at once; the place is 
dangerous for you; if you look at the forbidden tree again, the 
desire to eat of its fruit will again come to you; therefore you 
must go away at once. *'And the Lord God sent him out of 
the paradise of pleasure, " ' and placed an angel with a fiery 
sword at the entrance, so that he might never return to the 
place where he had sinned. sinner! since you now acknowl- 
edge your guilt and repent of it, let me ask you, '* where art 
thou?^^ Where do you intend to remain for some time to come? 
In the house Avhere that person is still living? In the house or 
company where you will often meet with that person? Ah, 
that is no place for you! You must never go there any more; 
the entrance to it must be closed to you, or else the old Adam 
will get possession of you again. 

You say that you do not feel any temptation any longer, and 
that all sinful desire seems to have left you. If that is the case, 
why are you so anxious to see that person again? Why are you 
so troubled when he or she is absent? Why do you find it so 
difficult to break off that intimacy? That is an evident, unmis- 

» NoUte locum dare diabolo !-Ephes. Iv. 27. * TJbl es?— Gen. lil. 9. 

• Et emlsit eum Domlnus Deus de paradiso voluptatls.- Ibid. 23. 

Sinners in the Proximate Occasion of Sin. 365 

takable sign that you have still something left to fight against 
in secret, and that the sinful desire has not entirely abandoned 
you. If you really feel no temptation any more, then one of 
three things must be true: either the devil does not know you 
any longer^, as the Abbot Apollo once said to a religious who 
had never experienced a temptation from which the holiest ser- 
vants of God are not free, in spite of their penitential lives; or 
the devil takes no further trouble about you, as he knows that 
he is sure of you while yon are in that occasion; for a dog does 
not bark at the friends of the house, but only at strangers 
whom he does not know, and so perhaps the hellish dog looks 
on you as one of his own, since he leaves you in peace; or else 
he is deceiving you, and is preparing, some trap to ensnare you, 
since he now refrains from tempting you after you have done 
penance, in order to be more sure of bringing you to destruc- 
tion afterwards. ^ ^ sb by 

This cnif ty enemy sometimes acts with souls like the :N"orman ^^^ 
prince, Hustings. The latter, having besieged for a long time 
unsuccessfully the Italian town of Luna, at last commanded all 
hostilities against the to\\;n to cease, and caused the rumor to be 
spread about that he, the general in chief of the besieging army, 
had suddenly taken ill and died. The news of his supposed 
death was brought to the citizens by an envoy, who made known 
to them at the same time the last will of the prince, namely, 
that his body should be carried in state to the cathedral of the 
town, to which he left a rich legacy, and be there buried. The 
citizens believed the story, and that all the more readily as hos- 
tilities had ceased for such a considerable time. Hastings was 
then brought into the town, accompanied by a number of court- 
iers and officers, and some thousands of soldiers bearing lighted 
torches. While the citizens were admiring the spectacle, the 
prince suddenly opened his coffin, and, to their greatest astonish- 
ment, leaned out into the midst of his men, who were all well 
armed. He was thus enabled to take possession of the gates of 
the town, and to allow his army to enter, so that, in place of 
being a corpse himself, he made one of the unfortunate town, 
and reduced it to subjection. Thus, when the people thought 
him dead and unable to harm them, he showed them that he 
was reallv alive; but thev did not learn the fact until he had 
already subdued them. mortal, you have, as we have seen, 
closed the doors of your soul against the devil; you have by re- 
pentance and a purpose of amendment placed yourself, as it wer^ 

' 1 utiil - 

Many are 
tbus be- 
dbown by 

366 Sinners in the Proximate Occasion of Sin, 

in a well fortified citadel, where the enemy does not dare to 
attack you. But I beg of you, keep the gate closed fast against 
him, see that you do not venture to open it once to the proxi- 
mate occasion of sin. The enemy pretends fur a time to be dead ; 
he leaves you in peace; you do not feel carnal desires any more, 
and you seem to be quite a new man; nay, the next time you 
go into the occasion, into the presence of that person, he will be 
careful to keep away from you all evil desires, so that you may 
come away without sin. Why does he act thus? In order, as 
St. Gregory says, that, when you think yourself safe and removed 
from all danger, so that you go fearlessly into the occasion, he 
may suddenly surprise you, fan into a more violent flame than 
ever the sinful desires that seemed to you to be quite extin- 
guished, and thus make sure of bringing you to eternal ruin. 

Oh, how many there are like you, who made even a far stronger 
resolution to remain steadfast in their fidelity to God, and who 
have found out by sad experience the truth of this! For, though 
an example. ^^^^ ^^.^ ^^^ ^^^^ ^^^^ occasion deliberately, but happened on it 

by chance, their good resolutions were thrown to the winds, and 
they became worse than before. Father Paul Segneri of our 
Society, in his book called *' the Christian Man," tells us of a 
thief who, while he was in prison, under sentence of death, 
repented of his sins, and made a good general confession of his 
whole life, and accepted his death as a well merited punishment, 
with full resignation to the will of God. As he was being led 
out to execution, to his great and perhaps eternal misfortune, 
he passed by a house in which a person with whom he had for- 
merly maintained an unlawful intercourse was looking out of 
the window; the sight of her inflamed his desires anew, he con- 
sented to them, and was immediately delivered over to the ex- 
ecutioner. You may see from this, my dear brethren, what 
great power the proximate occasion, though it has been long 
abandoned, has over the human heart. There was a man who 
a moment before had repented of his sins with true contrition, 
and was going out to meet his death, which he accepted with 
resignation to the will of God, so tliat there was only the gallows 
between him and his Judge; he had the crucifix in his hand 
and his confessor at his side; he was surrounded by people who 
were praying for his soul, knowing well that he would be in 
eternity in a few moments: and that man was so changed by a 
chance sight of a person with whom he had been accustomed to 
sin long before, that neither the justice of man, which had con- 

S inner s in the Proximate Occasion of Sin, 367 

demned him to death, nor the justice of God, which would 
condemn him immediately after to the flames of hell, could ex- 
tinguish in him the fire of impure love. my God, who, then, 
will dare to trust himself wantonly into the occasion of sin? 
Can you, sinner, believe that you may rely so firmly on the 
good resolution you made in confession, that the occasion of sin 
has no dangers for you? 

no! '' If thy eye scandalize thee, pluck it out and cast it 
from thee." No matter how great the change you think has 
come over you, pluck out the eye that has hitherto been the oc- 
casion of sin to you, and throw it far away from you. Even 
supposing there were no danger of your committing sin in the 
company of that person (and if one uses the means that confes- 
sors generally prescribe at first, the proximate occasion may be 
turned into a remote one; but that is seldom done; and in the 
matter of impurity, when they who have an improper affection 
for each other live in the same house, or are in the habit of 
seeing each other frequently, it is almost impossible), supposing, 
I say, there is no danger of sin for you, how do you know that 
there is none for the other person? The latter you certainly 
place in the proximate occasion of impure thoughts and desires 
by your presence or conversation. Nor will I say anything now 
of the scandal you give the whole neighborhood, who are, per- 
liaps, aware of the unlawful intercourse you have been maintain- 
ing. Therefore I repeat that it is not lawful for you to remain 
in such an occasion, or to seek it again; but you are bound, 
under pain of grievous sin, to remove it altogether and to avoid 

it completely. 

1 am well aware of all that has been said hitherto, thinks a 
third bv wav of excuse: but I will, at all events, go to that person 
once more and represent the dangerous state in which we have 
both been living, so that by fraternal correction I may perhaps 
induce him or her to do penance like me, and thus we may 
change our former unlawful love into a holy friendship, which 
will not hurt us; if I do not do that, the poor soul will probably 
continue in the state of sin and be lost forever. What a pious, 
holy zeal for souls you have all of a sudden! I imagine the 
devil must have a hearty laugh at your devotion. Do you think 
you can convert souls by your presence and conversation, and 
save them from the jaws of the hellish wolf, although it is only 
very recently and with great trouble that you have succeeded in 
escaping him yourself? You are not afraid to venture on the 

Even If one 
were to 
keep his res- 
olution, it 
would still 
be danger- 
ous to go 
into tbe oo- 

I will go to 
that per- 
son to con- 
vert her, 
and for no 
other pur- 
pose; third 

- ^ ^'"*^- - ■■-i<i"-tf 'm^ ii^i • 

-,- . .yini'i'ir'Si Tit ■fl||fi,i^i''riW^ff 

■y • " H"^« »J»*|"" 

I .11 I. IJJIIWP'^W 


■ ■*:.- " -■w^"' y^^TT-T 

They will 
both fall 
a^ain into 

368 Sinners in the Proximate Occasion of Sin, 

conversion of a soul from sinful Inst by presenting to lier tlie 
object of her passion, that is, yourself. You wish by your 
presence and conversation to inspire a soul with a horror of the 
vice of impurity, and to lead her to love God above all things, 
and that, too, the soul whom you have led so far astray, that 
for the sake of carnal pleasure she has more than once renounced 
God and heaven, so that she could not be brought to see the 
error of her ways by preaching or exhortation, or by the divine 
inspirations? You wish to preach penance to a soul who has so 
perverted you, that you have often given yourself over to tlie 
devil and to the eternal flames of hell? I am very much afraid 
that vou are hardlv clever enough to bring such a great under- 
taking as that to a successful conclusion. 

I know well that the Holy Ghost has imposed on you by the 
wise Ecclesiasticus the duty of helping your neiglibor to be con- 
verted and to save his soul: " Recover thy neighbor," He says; 
but hear what He adds immediately after: '' recover thy neighbor 
according to thy power, and take heed to thyself that thou fall 
not;"' that is, do not attempt anything above your strength, 
and be careful that in trying to help him you do not injure 
yourself. If a heavy burden is placed on a newly-built wall, 
that is not yet dried, it will fall down. You have been only 
recently restored to the grace and friendship of God, and yet do 
you trust so much in your virtue and strength that you are not 
afraid to undertake such a difficult and important business as 
the conversion of a soul, and that, too, in such circumstances 
and by such means as God has strictly forbidden, lest your soul 
should be perverted again? Which is the more likely, asks St. 
Gregory of Nazianzen, that a man in good health will give 
strength to a sick man by his company, or that the sick man 
will infect him who is in good health? The latter is more likely, 
and is generally the case, when there is question of a contagious 
illness. You may be quite certain that your presence and com- 
pany will infect the person whom yon visit in that way with 
another spiritual malady, that is, yon wtll at least cause her to 
commit a mortal sin in thought, while you yourself will not 
come away without having imbibed some of the poison. 

„ About nineteen years ago I was told by a priest that he once 

an example. |^gj^^^ \;^q confession of a man who was at the last extremity, and 
who shed tears of sorrow while telling his sins. Hardly had the 

» Recupera proximum secundum virtutem tuam, et attende tibi ne incldas.—Ecclus. xxix. 

Shown by 

Sinners in the Proximate Occasion of Shu 369 

priest left the house, when a woman came running after him, 
weeping and trembling in every limb, who begged, him to come 
back; could you guess why, my dear brethren? When the priest 
left the house, that woman, who had been an occasion of sin 
and a stumbling-block of scandal to the sick man, entered the 
room of the latter with the pious intention of helping him and 
praying for him (ah, would that she had never thought of such 
a thing!) and the unhappy man, with death already in his face, 
gathered all his remaining strength together, and gave her to 
understand that he had consented anew to unchaste desires. 
The woman, horrified at this, ran after the priest, who tried to 
move the dying man to repentance, both by prayers and threats; 
but whether he succeeded, or not, is doubtful. This is an exam- 
ple worthy of deep consideration; the person who had been the 
occasion of sin to that man thought she could enter his room in 
his dying moments, for a good and holy purpose, but in reality- 
she was the cause of the greatest misfortune and perhaps of 
eternal damnation to him. A nearly similar incident is related by 
Father Joseph Prola, of our Society, of a young man in Italy. 
The hitter had kept up an improper intimacy for some time, but 
at length, enlightened by a ray of divine grace, he repented of 
his sins, and made up his mind to give up that sinful intimacy 
•and to be converted to God with all his heart. Full of this in- 
tention, he set to work and wrote down a general confession of 
his whole life, with which he hastened to a confessor; but as he 
was on the way, the devil inspired him with the thonght of going 
to see his accomplice in guilt, in order to persuade her to do the 
same, and to repent of her sins. The foolish young man took 
this thought as an inspiration of God: he goes to the house, and 
finds the person there alone. At the first sight of her, all his re- 
pentance vanished at once; the fire of impure love was kindled 
anew; he made np his mind to sin with her once more, and 
hardly had he come to that conclusion, when another young 
man,, a rival of his, entered the house and plunged a dagger into 
his heart; thus his unhappy soul was hurried down to hell while 
he actually had his general confession on his person. That is 
what must be expected when one goes again into the proximate 
occasion of sin, ^ven under the pretext of devotion and with the 
intention of doing good to others. 

No, no; in such circumstances there is no safety unless in ^^°^^^^^ 
flight. And if you wish to convert the person with Avhom you tationto 
have sinned, then, says St. Gregory, the only advice I can give shun the 



— «Ji« 

V .^. 


370 Excuses for not Avoiding the Occasion of Sin. 

you is to do it "not in word, nor in tongue, but in deed ard 
in truth;" not with exhortation and advice, nor even by letter, 
but in deed and in trutli, that is, by good exani})le. Keep away 
from that person; do not take any notice of her if slie should 
salute you, or send messages to you by others; send bnck her let- 
ters unopened; shut your door in her face and act towards her 
as if she were your mortal enemy. Then she may perluips enter' 
into herself and say: that man is evidently quite changed; it is 
clear that he is really converted; I must follow his example. If 
she does not follow it, then, at all events, you have done what God 
required of you, and have placed your own soul in safety. In a 
word, without attempting to seek any excuses, " flee from sins 
as from the face of a serpent; "* dread the occasion of sin, as 
you would a venomous reptile. Commentators on this passage 
ask why God does not tell us to fly sin as a raging lion or tiger, 
for such animals could do us more harm than a mere crawling 
reptile? And they answer by saying that those animals, al- 
thoutjh thev are cruel and dans^erous, are not to be feared at all 
times; for while they are young, one can play with them without 
running any risk; nay, they may be tamed so that they run af- 
ter the person who feeds them, as if they were faithful dogs; a 
fact which experience abundantly proves. On the other hand, 
serpents are always to be feared; they can never be tamed, and 
whether they are young or old, they can always kill a man, if 
they but touch him with their poisonous fangs. Therefore we 
must avoid the occasion of sin as we would a serpent; and under 
no pretext are we allowed to go into the proximate occasion; no 
subterfuge or excuse will exempt us from this obligation. If 
you do not wish, then, to lose your soul, there is nothing else for 
you but flight. Fly the occasion. Amen. 



The proximate occasion can and must be avoided at once; no 
matter what excuse is alleged to the contrary. — Preached on the 
sixth Sunday after Epiphany, 

* Quasi a facie colubri fuge pecoata.— Ecclns. xxl. 2. 

Excuses for not Avoiding the Occasion of Sin, 371 


Cum autem creverit, majus est omnibus olerihus, et fit arhor. 

^Matt. xiii. 32. 
'' When it is grown up, it is greater than all herbs, and. be- 

cometh a tree." 

To prevent a tree from growing in your garden, where you do 
not wish to have it, nothing more is necessary at first, than for a 
little bird to carry off the seed. And if the young plant has al- 
ready made its appearance over ground, all you have to do is to 
catch it with bothhands and pull it up, root and all. But if it 
once grows to a tree, then the birds, with their picking, and the 
hands, with their pulling, cannot force it out of the ground. It 
must be cut down with the axe, and the roots carefully dug up. 
It is the same, my dear brethren, with the dangerous occasion of 
sin. The daily occasions, common to all men, which arise from 
company and society that one cannot avoid, are, so to speak, the 
little seedlings, from which sin remotely springs; and in such 
occasions it is enough for one to have recourse to God by daily 
prayer, and to keep his outward senses and his heart free from 
any disorderly affection. The frequent and unnecessary inter- 
course of the sexes, which is allowed under pretence of amuse- 
ment, is a far more dangerous occasion of sin; but the only 
difficulty in avoiding sin, even in that case, is to keep away from 
such promiscuous gatherings, unless necessity or decency requires 
otherwise, and not to seek such occasions deliberately. But if 
the intimacy has grown into a tree, that is, if it has become a 
proximate occasion, so that sin is generally committed on ac- 
count of it, especially in the matter of impurity, then, indeed, 
great labor and trouble are necessary to break off that intimacy, 
to remove the occasion, and to tear up the roots of sin. Uncer- 
tainty of death! Strict justice of God! Eternal joys of heaven! 
Eternal torments of hell! you may be represented a hundred times 
in sermons; but you are of hardly any use in moving the hearts 
of those who are once entangled in such an occasion, to make up 
their minds firmly to avoid it altogether. For, not only do such 
people seek all sorts of vain pretexts to deceive themselves and 
to persuade themselves that they are not bound to shun it, as we 
have seen in the last sermon, but, as a last resource, they put 
forward as an excuse what they call the insuperable difficulty of 
shunning it. 




372 Excuses for 7iot Avoiding the Occasion of Sin, 

Plan of Discourse. 

. I cannot, or I cannot yet, tlicij say, avoid or remove the 2)roxi- 
mate occa,'<ion. But I say that you can and must remove and 
avoid it at once, no matter what you urye to the contrary. Such 
is the whote subject of this sermon. I liope firmly, with the hcdp of 
God, that it concerns no tme here present, and that the onhf good 
they will derive from this sermon will he that they who toere 
formerly in the proximate occasion, may thank God for haviut/ 
freed them from it, irhile all the others may shim the least occa- 
sion of evil before it develops into a proximate occasion. 

Give lis Thy gnice to this end, God, tliroiigh the intercession 
of Marv, Thv Imniacuhite Mother, and of onr holv cfuardian 
angels, who are most careful of tlie salvation of those entrusted 
to them. 

First ex. Let US hear the first excuse. What is the reason that 3'ou 

cuse * I will 

do away cannot remove or avoid the proximate occasion? Ah, the an- 
withtheoc- swer is, I find it too hard and almost impossible to leave that 
^^Jy"^*^^" house or that company, or to shun completely a person whom 
I litwe known for such a long time. I will try to give up the oc- 
casion little by little, and to reduce the number of my visits week 
by week, until at length I can give up going altogether. Ah! 
I see the knot is a hard one for von to loosen ; von think vou 
will be able to do it by degrees ; but that will not do. You 
must cut the knot, not loosen it, says St. Paulinus. * If you 
really wish, you can keep from all grievous sins, for God has 
given you absolute freedom in the matter ; therefore you can al- 
so give up at once the proximate occasion of grievous sin; for 
God has commanded you, under pain of grievous sin, to shun the 
proximate occasion. "We must leave sin, not gradually, but at 
once and forever. God will not make peace with his enemies 
gradually, but at once and for all time. To be determined 
to sin in this week, and to lessen the number of your sins grad- 
ually in the succeeding weeks, is not doing penance and being 
converted, but rather going off gradually farther from God, and 
nearer to the eternal flames of hell. 

Tell me, what would you think if one, wishing to go to Metz, 
shownhjti ^^y^ *^ himself: the road is very long and difficult, I could not 
simile. do the journey in a day on foot; I will go by the Moselle, a 

it leads in the opposite direction ; the first day I will tj/ayel six 
hours, the second four, the third three, and by thus lessening the 

distance daily, I will, no doubt, arrive at Metz in good time. Eh? 
* Sacclde, oon solvas. 

leave it all 
at once* 

How foolish 
that is! 

Excitses for not Avoiding the Occasion of Sin. i']'^^ 

Foolish man that you are, you would say to him with reason ; it 
is true, you are travelling shorter distances every day ; but still 
YOU are going every day farther from Metz ; and if you continue 
that, you will never arrive there. That is exactly the foUy you 
are t^uilty of when you determine to break off the occasion of sin 
little by little. It is too difficult, you say, to give up that per- 
son's friendship allat once; it must be a work of time. Will it, 
then, be easier for you after you have given way still more to your 
carnal appetites? Easier, when the fire burns more fiercely? 
Easier, when the sinful habit has become more inveterate? Cer- 
tainly not. The deeper the wound, the more difficult it is to cure. 
You think you will afterwards get rid of the occasion by degrees. 
Alas, unfortunate '' afterwards," how many souls have you already 
hurled into hell I I should like to see the strong box, in which 
you keep your time locked up, so that you can take it out to do 
penance in, whenever you wish. Now you have the time; now God 
has given it to you, and now you should use it for your conver- 
sion, not little bv little, but at once, as God commands vou to do 
under pain of sin. Do away with the occasion of sin immedi- 
ately, and give up that bad company; who knows what will become 
of vou afterwards? 

Others sav. I cannot leave the house in which I am in the second ex- 
habit of sinning. Why not? Because I am a servant, and my ^"^rvant"^ 
year's service has not expired ; but next October, when my time and cannot 
will be up, I shall try to get another place ; till then, I must re pj^^JJ^j^ 
main as I am. So the year is not finished for you yet, as far as the end of 
sin is concerned, and you will go on offending God until next the year. 
October? How do you know that you will be in better dispositions 
next October? The chances are that by the end of the 3'ear you 
will become more hardened in vice, and you will re-engage with 
your present master, and so spend another year in the proximate 
occasion of sin. And, besides, how do you know that you will live 
till next October? Perhaps (and it may easily be the case) by next 
October you may be in hell, where you will have to remain, not 
for one year, nor two, nor twenty, nor a thousand, but for all 
eternity, in the midst of all imaginable torments, in a lake of fire 
and brimstone. Answer this question: if the plague broke out 
in the house in which you are in service, or if there were a fire 
even in the neighborhood of it, would you like to remain in it 
till next October, because your time is not up, and you must wait 
till it is? I am pretty sure that you would not stop to consider 
the matter, but would make your escape at once. Is, then, that 

..>.,-^ ^M_.- ...-.■ .- 

li;^:-^^'-f!'"'gvBa#!i5igg^a^>j^ ■v..,','jf^f^i]S9M^js^ g^i^ 

■ 1 


74 Excuses for not Avoiding the Occasion of Sin. 

Such per- 
sons must 
leave at 
once, no 
matter what 

plague of the soul, that hellish fire wliich you find in that house, 
less to be dreaded by you, than a calamity which affects only 
the mortal body. 

But, you say, I must keep my contract with my master, other- 
wise I should lose my wages for the whole year, and, besides, if 1 
were to leave now, where could I find a place, since now, in the 
middle of the year, every family is supplied with servants? Do 
you, then, prefer to perjure yourself to your God, who has com- 
manded you under pain of hell to leave, rather than to break your 
contract with a mere mortal, who can at most deprive you of 
3'our wages? If you are in earnest about leading a better life, tell 
your master in confidence of the danger which threatens your 
soul in his service, and if he is a good Christian, and fears God, 
he will find some means of removing it, or, if that cannot be 
done, will give you a good recommendation, along with the 
wages that are due to you for the period of your service. If 
3^our master himself is an occasion of sin to you, and it is unfor- 
tunately only too often the case that masters, who ought to 
give their servants good example, and help them to save their 
souls, use them simply as a means of gratifying their foul lusts, 
and thus give them over to the devil; if, I say, it is so with you, 
then away out of the house with you, at once. It is no place for 
you, even if you were to lose your wages by going. For you 
should think a great deal more of the eternal recompense you 
lose by remaining, than of the few shillings you have to expect 
from your master. Remember the impressive words of Our 
Lord: '^ What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world, 
and suffer the loss of his own soul? Or, what exchange shall a 
man give for his soul? * Confess the truth to your own conscience: 
if another master were to promise you fifty dollars more wages, 
and you were not in the occasion of sin in the house in which 
you now are, would you hesitate long about accepting this offer, 
and leaving your present situation? I think not; for fifty dollars 
a year would more than compensate you for the loss of your 
present salary. But the great King of Leaven and earth prom- 
ises that, if in obedience to Him you leave the proximate 
occasion of sin, and overcome yourself. He will give you His 
grace and favor, and the kingdom of heaven into the bargain ; 
and yet you say, I cannot ; I must wait till the end of the year, 
or I shall lose my wages ! Where is your understanding? What 

* Quid prodest homini, si mundumunlversum luoretur, animee vero suae detrimentum pa- 
tiatur ? Aut qoaiu dablt homo commutatlonem pro anlma sua ?— Matt. xvl. 26. 

Excuses for not Avoiding the Occasion of Si?L 375 

has become of your reason? Oh, you say, it is all very well to 
Lk in that way, but who will take me into his service in the 
middle of the year, and what can I do, if I do not find a ph^^e? 
Whether you find a place or not, and even if you were obliged to 
beo- your bread your whole life long, or, what is still worse, to 
suffer a painful and disgraceful death, you should make up your 
mind to do it, rather than offend your God and lose your soul 
by committing mortal sin. Ah, if you were not held fast by 
carnal love and sensual pleasure, and if you were in earnest 
about abandoning sin, I believe you would find ways enough of 
leavino- your present situation, even in the middle of the year, 
without my saying anything to you about it; but what is wanting 
in mo«t cases is an earnest resolution to overcome the difficulty 
and burst the bonds of sinful affection. Is not that so? Your 

own conscience says, yes. .. ,,.^.. Third ex- 

I cannot, a third says. And why not.'' Oh, what would ^^^^^ ^^^^^ 
people say if I were to leave my situation, or the house in which win people 
I am lodging, before the end of the year; if I never went to that -y^«^^^^ 
place to which I have been accustomed to go for such a long ^ouse, etc.? 
time- if I never spoke to that man, with whom I am now known 
to be' on friendly terras; if I sent away that person, who has been 
with me for so many years? What would. people think of me? 
Oh' And is it that, that makes it almost impossible for you to 
avoid the proximate occasion of sin? Why do you not take a 
sensible view of the matter? You say, what will people think 
of me, if I leave that house, etc. ? And 1 ask you, what will the 
angels in heaven think of you, if you continue in the indulgence 
of your sinful passions, and if they see you always adding to the 
number of your sins? Wliat will the devils think, when they 
see that you are daily increasing your eternal torments, accord- 
ing to their wish and desire, and in contempt of their Creator.'' 
AVhat will the almighty God, who is present in all places, and 
who sees all you do, think of you, if you continue to offend and 
insult Him before His very face? What will all mankind, the 
elect in heaven, and the reprobate in hell, think of you on the 
Last Dav, when they will see you hurried down to hell after hav- 
ing received the sentence of your condemnation? What will 
you yourself think, when you reflect that, for the sake of a few 
years' pleasure which you had in that house, you have to suffer 
the eternal torments of hell? - 

But. putting ^11 this aside for the present, although it is of the k^p^p^ 
utmost importance, I will speak of the matter with you accord- 

rSj^:.><^f^gm»y ^ 


.^„, =». ■ 'i-^s-jii^lJ «J W^eP" 



he is in the 
occasion of 
sin, his good 
name is al- 
ready gone. 


If they do 
not know, 
his reputa- 
tion will 
not suffer 
by his leav- 
ing the oc- 

3/6 Excuses for not Avoiding the Occasion of Sin, 

ing to the natunil light of reason. Either people know and 
have a well-fouiidod suspicion tluit you are keeping np an r.ii- 
lawful intimacy with that person, or that the visits you pay are 
for no good purpose, or they do not know it. One of these two 
must he the case. Do they know of it? And, indeed, it is, 
humanly speaking, impossible for a thing of the kind to be kept 
secret very long in a neighborhood, although you may imagine 
that no one suspects what you are doing in that house, or the 
nature of your relations with tliat person; yet your own behavior 
and that of your accomplice in guilt is enough, even without the 
frequent visits you i)ay, to betray what is going on, so that, while 
YOU stunidlv think vour cfuilt is known onlv to vourself and vour 
accomplice, it is, so to speak, town-talk already. Suppose, then, 
I sav, that thev are aware of it; do vou know what thev have 
thought of you up to the present, and what they will contimi* 
to think of you if they eee you keeping up that intimacy. They 
have hitherto thought that you are leading a scandalous life, un- 
becoming a Christian, and that it would be far better for your 
spiritual welfare and for your good name before men if you left 
that house, or sent that person away, or broke off that unlawful 
connection. The hardest things possible are said of you, every- 
one is shocked at your conduct, and you make yourself, moreover, 
responsible for the sins you occasion by your bad example. See, 
blind mortal, you do not fear to be made the subject of such 
talk, and to have such a bad name, as long as you remain in the 
occasion of sin, and yet you are afraid of what people will think 
of you if, as you are bound in conscience before God, you avoid 
that occasion, shun that house, and amend your life! If you do 
this latter, then I can tell yoit what all good, pious, and decent 
people will say of you; they will think and say that you have 
done quite right; that you should have done it long since; that 
you are now in earnest about saving your soul and going to 
heaven; and they will thank God for having given you the grace 
to get rid of that person, to shun that iiouse, etc. Jt is no dis- 
grace for people to think of you in thatVay; it rather helps to 
restore the good name you have lost by continuing in the occa- 
sion of sin. 

But suppose the people know nothing at all, and have not the 
least suspicion of the sinful life you are leading; what can they 
think of you, if you turn that person away, or give up going to 
that house? Is it such a wonderful thing for one to get rid of a 
servant, or to seek for another situation, or to break off a friend- 

Excusesfor not Avoiding the Occasion of Sin, 377 

„hin? It is done every day in the world, for all sorts of reasons. 
Sudden changes of the kind are sometimes caused by a few words 
.Lot one lets drop without meaning any harm by them, let, 
Pt^neople say of you what they please, what is it to you, as Icng 
1; the almighty God has a good opinion of you, and your own 
conscience approves of what you have done? If a wild ox were 
to attack you in the street, would you be ashamed to run away, 
because the people would laugh at you, and point at you? Oh, 
no-^ in a danger of that kind you would let the people say what 
thev wish for your life is more valuable to you than their good 
woi-ds -\ncl you would be quite right. But should you not 
think a great deal more of your eternal salvation, which is m 
the greatest danger as long as you are in the proximate occasion 
of sin^ The philosopher Diogenes once saw a young man coming 
out of a house of ill fame, and the latter blushed with shame at 
being detected; - do not be ashamed-," said the philosopher to 
him, ''of coming out of that house; but be ashamed to go into 


It is well known what a temptation the chaste Joseph had in 

Eo-vpt, when his mistress tried to induce him to commit sin. 
nt refused to listen to her solicitations; but she lost all shame, 
and threatened to accuse him to her husband of having offered 
violence to her, if he did not consent to her wishes. How did 
Joseph act in such dangerous circumstances? Without saying 
a word, he ran out of the house, leaving his mantle in the hands 
of his mistress, who had caught hold of it to prevent his flight. 
You are justly surprised, my dear brethren, at the extraordmary 
virtue of 'the young man, and that he was able to defend himself 
from a danger to which the pious David and the wise Solomon 
succumbed, and that he immediately took to flight. And, cer- 
tainlv, he has left an example for all time to show how flight is 
the only means of p